Breast Cysts

What are Breast Cysts?

Breast cysts are growths on the breast. They are sacs filled with fluid and most often are considered to be benign (not cancerous). A person can develop a single cyst or they can have many cysts in one or both breasts. These breast cysts can also vary in size and shape which often makes women who discover that they have them worried when they first find one.

There are glands inside of the breasts (mammary glands) that produce milk when a woman gives birth to a child. However, sometimes, fluid can build up in those glands, even if the woman has never had a child. This fluid buildup causes breast cysts.

While there is no census on why breast cysts develop for some women and not others, there are some signs that hormone changes during menstruation may contribute. They may also develop if a woman has excess estrogen in her body and it stimulates the breast tissue into action when it shouldn’t be stimulated.

What are the Symptoms of Breast Cysts?

The primary symptom of a breast cyst is a lump or protrusion in the breast tissue. Some breast cysts are easily palpable and can be felt just under the surface of the skin, particularly near the armpit. These lumps are often round or oval and seem to have smooth edges and are easily movable under the surface of the skin.

Breast cysts may cause pain or tenderness in the breasts as well. They may also feel swollen or a person may notice swelling in one area of the breast. The breast lumps may also grow and become more sore or tender when a person is about to get their period or they are menstruating and may get smaller after menstruation is done. Some women also experience nipple discharge as a result of their cysts.

How are Breast Cysts Treated?

Oftentimes, if breast cysts are not painful or problematic, treatment is unnecessary. The cyst will need to be examined and aspirated (have a sample take from it) in order to ensure that it is not cancerous, but if it is not and does not cause symptoms, it can be left alone.

Treatment includes

However, sometimes breast cysts do cause pain or disruptions in a person’s life. If a woman is not already on birth control or other hormone pills, taking these can help to better control menstruation and the hormone fluctuations that can cause breast cysts to develop and grow. Painful breast cysts or those that could be cancerous can be removed surgically as well.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
August 31, 2017