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Breast cysts occur when fluid-filled sacs develop in the breast. They develop naturally as the breast ages and changes.
Breast cysts are most common in women who have not reached menopause, although you can develop breast cysts at any age. Women who use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause may also develop cysts.
Developing one or more cysts, either in one breast or both breasts, is relatively common and there is nothing to worry about. Many women reportedly have cysts without knowing about them. Having a breast cyst does not increase your risk of developing breast cancer.
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Cysts can present as lumps on the breast or they can sometimes be found by chance when you have a routine breast screening.
In some cases, the cysts can feel uncomfortable and even painful for some women. Before your period, cysts may also feel larger, sore and tender.
The exact cause of breast cysts is unknown but it is likely related to the hormonal fluctuations.
An ultrasound (which creates a picture of the breast using high-frequency sound waves) can be performed. In women aged 40 years old and above, a mammogram (breast x-ray) may be arranged too.
If the cyst is easily felt, your doctor may insert a fine needle into the lump to draw out (aspirate) the fluid to confirm the diagnosis.
Most people who discover that they have breast cysts usually do not require any treatment or follow-up. Many cysts go away naturally.
However, if the cyst is large and causing discomfort, or does not go away on its own, your doctor may draw out the fluids using a fine needle. Once the fluid has been drained, the cyst usually disappears. You may feel some discomfort as the fluid is being drawn, and the area may feel bruised and tender for some days after. If so, painkillers such as paracetamol can be taken.
The fluid drawn from the cyst can vary in appearance, from clear to a dark colour. Usually, it is only sent to a laboratory for testing if it is blood-stained, as this may indicate breast cancer.
Cvsts can grow back or you may develop new cysts. If you think a cyst has returned or a new cyst has formed, please have it examined by a doctor.
In a minority of cases, the cyst may be cancerous, especially if there are sinister factors seen on ultrasound. In such cases, the doctor will advise you on the appropriate treatment.