Breast Cyst Definition and Meaning: – A breast cyst is a fluid filled pouch inside the breast which is usually non-cancerous in nature.
What is Breast Cyst ?
It is a sac inside the breast which is filled with fluid. A woman can have a cyst in one breast or even in both. These fluid-filled sacs are often round or elliptical in shape and have dissimilar edges. It is often described as a water-filled resin or a water filled-balloon but is also hard at times.
Most breast cysts develop rapidly and stay fixed at a particular size. They do not grow with time. In very rare cases, the cysts shrink or grow in size with time. These cysts are more prominent in pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women undergoing hormone therapy and women between the ages of 35 to 55; however women of any age can get these cysts.
cysts in breast are usually non-cancerous in nature and are not harmful; however some cysts cause discomfort and pain.
Breast Cyst Size
The size of a cyst in breast can range from the size of a small pearl to the size of a golf ball. In some cases, the cyst grows up to mere centimeters, while in some cases it can grow up to 4-5 inches in diameter.
Breast Cyst Symptoms
cysts in breast can be noticed in one or both cysts and signs and symptoms vary from one patient to another. Some of the symptoms that can be seen are:
- A soft, easily movable lump elliptical or round lump with irregular edges in one or both the breasts
- Nipple discharge that may be brownish, yellowish or clear
- Tenderness in the area of the cyst
- Mild to severe pain the area of the cyst
- Increase in the size of the breast cyst before the onset of menstruation or tenderness of the breast
- Sudden reduction in the size of the cyst or tenderness in breast after the period is over
- Numbness of the affected area
Breast Cyst Causes
The main cause of formation of a cyst in the breast is fluid accumulation in the glands of the breast.
Each of the breasts contains nodes of glandular tissue, arranged like flower petals. The nodes are further divided into nodules that yield milk during breast-feeding and pregnancy. The tissue that helps the breast in retaining the shape is made up of fibrous connective tissues and fatty tissues. Breast cysts form as a result of fluid collection in the glands inside the breasts.
Types of Breast Cyst
Based on their size, cysts can be categorized as:
- Micro cyst
- Macro cyst
Micro Cysts :- These cysts are very tiny and cannot be felt easily. They are often visible during tests like mammography and ultrasound.
Macro Cysts :- These cysts are large in size and can grow up to 2.5 inches in size. They can cause pain by exerting pressure on nearby breast tissues.
Which doctor treats a Breast Cyst?
The first doctor that you will visit, after discovering your breast cyst will most likely be your general physician or family doctor. However, after diagnostic tests and other findings, you may be referred to a specialist or a gynecologist for further treatment.
When to visit a doctor?
A healthy breast tissue often feels like a nodule or a lump. If you feel that a new breast lump, which can be easily felt and noticed, has formed and is causing discomfort and pain, then you must consult your doctor immediately. Also, a breast cyst that persists after your period is over should also be checked by a doctor.
How to prepare yourself for the appointment?
Your first appointment can take place at your general physician’s clinic. Follow the simple to-do steps below to have a perfect appointment session:
- Note down your symptoms including those which are not directly related to the breast cyst
- Prepare a short summary of your medical history and on-going treatment and medications (if any)
Make a list of questions that you may want to ask your doctor about your breast cyst like:
- What caused the cyst to grow?
- Does the presence of the cyst increase my risk of breast cancer?
- What sort of tests will I be asked to undergo?
- Does the cyst required treatment?
- Are there any points that I have to follow?
Meanwhile, also be ready to answer the following questions that your doctor may ask you:
- When did you first notice the symptoms?
- When did you first notice the breast lump?
- Is it painful?
- If yes, what is the severity of the pain?
- What sort of changes do you notice during your periods?
- Are you periods normal/heavy?
- Are the symptoms present in both the breasts?
- Do you have a family history of breast cancer?
- Do you have discharge from your nipple? If yes, is it on both the sizes?
- What is the color of the nipple discharge?
- Did you ever have a mammogram or a breast ultrasound?
- Have you ever undergone a breast biopsy?
Breast Cyst Diagnosis
Once your doctor is sure that you have a breast lump, you will be asked to undergo proper screening which may include a series of diagnostic tests and findings. Your doctor may ask you questions related to your family history, past medical problems and list of current medications. Based on the results of initial medical tests and examination, your doctor may recommended further testing that may include the following:
Breast Examination :- Your doctor will physically survey your breast lump. Since the physically examination is not sufficient to arrive at any conclusion, other diagnostic tests like mammography, breast ultrasound, fine needle aspiration or biopsy may be required.
Mammography :- A mammography is a breast x-ray which is used to diagnose diseases of the breast like breast cancer. It is also used to find lumps in the breast or a breast cyst.
Breast Ultrasound :- A breast ultrasound is used to determine if the cyst in the breast is filled with fluid or is solid. A fluid-filled lump is conclusive of a breast cyst. A solid lump is usually a benign lump like fibro adenoma or in rare cases, breast cancer. Once the lump is detected, your doctor may ask you to undergo fine needle aspiration or biopsy.
Fine Needle Aspiration :- During this procedure, the doctor will insert a thin needle in the breast lump and pull out fluid. It is carried out under the guidance of ultrasound for apt placement of the needle. If the fluid is successfully aspirated and the sac shrinks, your doctor may diagnose a breast cyst instantly.
The following can happen during fine needle aspiration:
- If the fluid is clear and the sac shrinks immediately, then further testing is not required.
- If the fluid looks brownish or bloody in colour and the sac does not shrink even after liquid is withdrawn, you may be asked to undergo further testing and consult a radiologist to rule out breast cancer.
- If no fluid is pulled out and the breast sac appears solid, it may be checked for dead cells (fine needle aspiration biopsy) to rule out cancer. You may also be asked to undergo other tests like mammogram and breast ultrasound.
Breast Cyst Treatment
Once the doctor confirm the presence of a cyst in your breast, further treatment may not be required. However, if the cyst becomes painful and causes discomfort, your doctor may recommend one of the following lines of treatment:
Fine Needle Aspiration :- This method is also considered as a treatment method, if your doctor is successfully able to withdraw fluid from the cyst and shrink it.
In case of some breast cysts, more than one aspiration sessions may be required.
Hormone Therapy :- Use of hormone therapy or birth-control pills may prove helpful in preventing more cysts for forming and recurring.
Surgery :- If the breast cyst is very large in size, extremely painful and contains bloody fluid, then surgery may be required. However, surgery is required in very rare cases.
Breast Cyst Home Remedies
There are numerous home remedies that are really helpful in getting rid of uncomfortable lumps in the breast. Some of them are:
Essential Oils Hot Compress :- One of the most effective ways of getting rid of breast cysts is hot compress of essential oils.
How to use:
- Take 9-10 drops of lavender essential oil and 3-4 drops of chamomile oil
- Mix them together in warm water
- Dip a clean cloth in this solution
- Gently compress the affected area
- Repeat 2-3 times a day to get rid of the cysts and avoid recurrence of more cysts in your breast.
Rice Hot Compress :- This is another popular home remedy for breast cysts which is known to work well in most of the cases.
How to use:
- Put a spoon on uncooked rice in a sock and seal the open end by tying it
- Warm this sock over a pan
- Gently apply the rice compress on the affected breast
- Repeat 2-3 times a day to get rid of the cysts and avoid recurrence of more breast cysts
Cabbage Leaves :- Over the years, cabbage leaves have proved to be a very helpful remedy for treating breast cysts. It helps in reducing the size of the breast cyst and pain.
How to use:
- Take two clean cabbage leave
- Cut them according to the size of your breast
- Tie them over the breast
- Leave for 30-45 minutes
Reduce Salt Intake :- Since salt contains sodium which has water retention properties, it is recommended to reduce your salt intake to reduce the size of the breast cyst and get rid of it. Avoid salty food like chips and other canned food.
Avoid Tea and Coffee :- Tea and coffee contain methylxanthines which chemical substance that lead to the formation of breast cysts. They are also found in some chocolates and chocolate drinks. In order to prevent cysts from forming, it is highly recommended that you avoid both of them. Also, additional caffeine content in coffee can further lead to discomfort it you already have a cyst. This applies for all other cysts like ganglion cyst, sebaceous cyst etc.
Apply Heat Compress :- You can use hot water bottles or heating pads to provide relief from pain. Also, warm water showers can be really helpful in reducing pain and discomfort. This remedy is also helpful in case of pilonidal cysts and ganglion cysts.
Wear a Proper Bra :- In case of painful breast cysts, wearing a good bra with proper breast tissue support can be of great help. Opt for a good quality bra which provides proper support to the breast tissues and avoid stretching them. Tight and underwired bras can cause the breast cyst to become more painful.
Opt for a Soy Based Diet :- Soy based foods contain isoflavin, a substance that helps in reducing the estrogen content in the body. Since high levels of estrogen are also responsible for the formation of breast cysts, consumption of foods rich in soy can be helpful.
Breast Cyst Pictures
Check out these pictures of breast cysts that will help you understand what they are and how they look.
Picture :- An MRI image of a breast cyst
Picture :- A closer look at a breast cyst
Picture :- Illustration of a breast with multiple cysts
Picture :- Breast cyst incision
Note: None of the images in the article are owned by us.