Breast Cysts – Symptoms, Causes, and Management

Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form under the skin, ranging from small mass that is hardly noticeable to large, painful lumps. These cysts can occur individually or in the form of clusters, especially in females in their late forties. The pain and tenderness are typically felt in the area of breast cysts.

Symptoms of breast cysts

Breast cysts can be smooth, hard, fluctuant, and have distinct margins. But there are other associated symptoms as well:

  • Breast tenderness and pain
  • Feel like a bunch of grapes or a balloon filled with water just under the skin
  • A nipple discharge
  • Fever in case of infection such as mastitis or a breast Abscess
  • Increase in the severity of symptoms just before the menstruation and symptoms resolve after the period.

Causes of breast cysts

The glandular tissue in the breast is formed by milk ducts that lie in the fibrous and fatty tissue. Breast cysts commonly appear in either of these locations due to several causes:

  • The blockage of milk ducts can lead to milk stasis that provides a medium for bacterial growth and thus the development of a cyst.
  • The most common cause is hormonal fluctuations that take place throughout the menstrual cycle.
  • Excessive estrogen production stimulates the breast tissue which results in the formation of cysts.

Risk factors

  • Women in their late childbearing age that is from 35 to 50 years
  • Females in pre menopause
  • Postmenopausal women on hormonal replacement therapy.

Complications associated with breast cysts

Breast cysts can rarely complicate into something serious, however, a few conditions that may develop are as under:

  • Recurrent cysts.
  • Infection that leads to abscess formation.
  • Septicemia if an infected cyst bursts.

Breast cysts and tumors

Many women worry about their breast cysts complicating into cancerous growths or tumors. Studies have not found any association of a cyst with a tumor and there is no evidence of cysts turning into tumors over time. Therefore, a cyst is treatable and has little to no serious complications.

Management of breast cysts


A clinical breast examination and ultrasound may help in the proper identification of a cyst. However, a mammogram is required to differentiate it from any other painful breast lump.


There is no treatment required for breast cysts that are associated with hormonal fluctuations. However, symptomatic relief is given and surgical treatment is required in case of worsening of the condition.

Medical treatment

  • Painkiller for pain relief
  • Oral contraceptives to regulate the menstrual cycle
  • Hormone therapy such as tamoxifen in case of deteriorating symptoms.

Surgical treatment

Fine needle aspiration is done for a large cyst to avoid progressing of infection
Incision and removal of a persistent cyst if it is uncomfortable or due to aesthetic purposes.

Home remedies

  • Wear a well-fitted bra that provides proper support
  • Use cold or hot compresses for mastalgia and inflammation associated with cysts
  • Avoid excessive use of caffeine
  • Discontinue alcohol intake
  • Evening primrose oil is a very effective treatment option.

When to consult a doctor?

Most of the times a cyst doesn’t require medical intervention, However, if you develop either of these, you should consult a doctor:

  • A high-grade fever
  • Blood tinged skin or cyst
  • Formation of new lumps
  • Worsening of symptoms
  • Orange peel appearance of the breast
  • Everted nipple or an unusual discharge


Can a breast cyst burst?

Yes, any sort of trauma to a large breast cyst can result in rupture of the capsule and may lead to septicemia which requires immediate medical attention.

How do you differentiate between a tumor and a cyst?

A cyst is usually filled with fluid, air, or any other material, however, tumors are usually firm to touch and are formed of extra tissue.

Do I need to remove my breast cysts?

It depends upon the severity of the pain and discomfort you have been facing. In most cases, a cyst disappears itself. Therefore, if it is causing you discomfort, fine needle aspiration can be a better option.

Last medically reviewed on September 2, 2022.