When a Cyst in Your Breast Is of Concern

When a Cyst in Your Breast Is of Concern

When most women think of breast concerns, cancer typically tops the list. However, it's not the only health issue that can affect this part of the body. Cysts can also cause discomfort and distress. Typically, they are benign, but they can occasionally be cancerous.

At his private practice in Santa Monica, California, Dr. Trevan Fischer, a complex general surgical oncologist, performs state-of-the-art minimally invasive procedures. Through his work on clinical trials at the Saint John's Cancer Institute, he also stays up-to-date on the latest information and techniques in the field.

Breast cysts

Breast cysts occur when fluid accumulates inside the glands of the breasts. Women may have one or multiple cysts, which can appear in one or both breasts. This health concern accounts for about one-quarter of all breast masses and affects approximately 7% of women.

Cysts are typically classified into two sizes. Microcysts tend to be too small to be manually detected and show up during a mammogram or ultrasound. Alternatively, macrocysts are 1-2 inches in diameter and can be felt during an exam.


Breast cysts are typically round or oval. They may feel soft like a grape or firm and be accompanied by tenderness or pain in the area. Clear, yellow, or dark brown discharge from the nipple may occur.

The lump's size may vary depending on where a woman is in her cycle. It can grow and become more tender before her period and then shrink after and feel less uncomfortable.


Experts don't know what causes breast cysts, but they may be due to hormonal changes. They can strike at any age but are most common in women between 35 and 50 who are either premenopausal or taking hormone replacement therapy during their postmenopausal years.

When cysts are concerning

The good news is for the vast majority of women, their breast cysts are non-cancerous and likely won't need treatment. 90% of all cysts are simple breast cysts with a smooth wall, no solid area, and filled only with fluid. This type is not cancerous.

However, two other kinds of cysts can be breast cancer — a complex breast cyst and a complicated breast cyst. Complex breast cysts contain a combination of fluid and solids and can be breast cancer in about one out of five cases. Complicated breast cysts are filled with fluid that may be cloudy, or the borders may be irregular. The odds of this type of cyst being cancer is less than 2%.

If the cyst is causing pain, some women may elect to undergo minimally invasive surgery to relieve their discomfort, even if it isn't cancerous.

While breast cysts are common and typically benign, it's essential to get a proper diagnosis from our team to rule out breast cancer. If you have felt a lump, click to book an appointment or call the office today at 310-807-2688 to find out how Dr. Fischer can help.

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