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A cyst is a fluid-filled sac. The fluid is produced and absorbed by the breast as part of the usual cycle of hormonal breast changes. Some women are more susceptible to breast cysts than others. They are more common in women aged 35-50 and in women who are taking hormone replacement therapy. (Note there is a view that cysts can be reduced by lower consumption of coffee and taking Vitamin B12). Cysts can be painful around menstruation

Simple cysts are not cancer and do not change into cancer. In rare cases, a cyst may have cancer growing in or close to it. This can be seen on an ultrasound, or found after the cyst is aspirated or drained.

You may have a cyst or a number of cysts without knowing it. Cysts do not usually need to be treated. Some women first detect their cyst as a painful lump and they may decide to have it drained if it is painful or troublesome. The breast surgeon will insert a fine needle into the cyst to draw out the fluid. This is usually simple and fairly painless. The fluid may be taken for testing.


A fibroadenoma is a smooth, firm breast lump made up of fibrous and glandular tissue. The term 'breast mouse' is also used to refer to a fibroadenoma.

We do not know the cause of fibroadenomas; however, they are not cancer and rarely change into breast cancer. As the diagram shows, fibroadenomas are more common in younger women and may become tender in the days before a period or grow bigger during pregnancy.

Women have a choice about whether to have their fibroadenoma removed, but if it is monitored and continues to enlarge, it should be removed. Most often, younger women or those with smaller fibroadenomas will not have them taken out. The operation to remove a fibroadenoma is relatively simple. A general anaesthetic is usually required.

Lumpy Breasts (Fibrocystic disease)

The term 'fibrocystic disease' was used to describe lumpy, tender breasts. Lumpy breasts are usual for some women so it is really not a disease. The lumpiness is normal breast tissue containing tiny cysts. These usually do not need treatment.

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