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.