Cysts are sac-like structures that are found in tissues located in various parts of the human body containing liquid, semi-solid and gaseous component. When such sac-like or capsule-like structure are found in the breast they are referred to as Breast Cyst.
Breast cysts are mainly found in women and it is a non-cancerous (benign) collection of fluid in the breast. It is a very common medical condition in women but not all women have it, it is often described as round or oval lumps with clear edges.
It has a distinct membrane different from the surrounding tissue and may be found in either or both breast at the same time.
Breast cyst is not the same as breast lump or cancer. The Cyst can occupy a single spot or take multiple positions in the breast but it is expected to come and go.
How does it feel?
They can be described as round or oval, feels like a grape or a water-filled balloon. You can conceptualize it as a blister that vaporizes away by itself or may be punctured with a medical needle, though, sometimes it can be very firm.
Breast cysts may be micro or macro in size; it is micro when the cysts are too small to feel but with the aid of medical imaging or mammography it will be seen.
It is macro when you can feel the cysts with the touch of your hand or it is pushing against nearby breast tissue. In this case, according to Mayo Clinic, it can grow up to 1-2 inches (2.5 to 5.0 centimeters).
Breast cysts have been found in women of several ages but it is most common in the 30–50 year age group. BCI Westmead breast cancer Institute observed that Cysts occurred in 50% of the cases of women that visited breast clinic.
Cysts have been found to occur in a repetitive cycle with most women menstruation period and disappear thereafter. It has also been observed to disappear finally after menopause, but in exceptional cases, it can last a lifetime.
The occurrence has also been noticed in post-menopause lifetime particularly for women who take hormone replacement treatment.
When to get worried
The presence of breast cysts does not increase your risk of cancer and is not expected to have a significant negative impact on your health, however, the following events may trigger your concern about it.
- When a cyst is large and painful or uncomfortable – this may require draining to ease the pain.
- If the cyst contains pus rather than the normal fluid – the situation has translated from cyst to an abscess.
- When you have a lumpy feeling that persists beyond your menstrual period, or if an existing breast lump grows or changes.
We can best understand the causes when we conceptualized the breast has consisting of layers of lobes and tissues dotted by glands that overlap and funnel fluid (milk) from one layer to the other.
When the fluid producing duct or lobes are blocked or the draining effect of the fluid producing lobes is slower than the absorbed amount, there would be a fluid accumulation called breast cyst.
Thus, over-growing glands within the connective tissues that link the milk ducts can lead to breast cysts.
The Cyst can also be due to hormonal imbalances or changes from monthly menstruation.
It has also been observed that excess estrogen in your body can stimulate breast tissue and contribute to breast cysts.
Your lifestyle like dieting, resting, movement and other external factors may constitute a contributing factor.