Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(10):1989

What is a breast cyst?

A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac, like a tiny balloon, inside the breast. Breast cysts are common in women. They can cause a little pain, but they are usually benign (not cancer).

What is breast cyst aspiration?

In breast cyst aspiration, your doctor uses a small needle to make sure that the breast lump is a cyst, and to drain fluid from the cyst.

When is breast cyst aspiration used? How is it done?

A breast lump that you can feel might hurt or make you worry about cancer. Breast cyst aspiration can help your doctor tell if the lump you feel is a cyst or a solid mass. Aspiration gives you this information right away, so you don't have to wait for a mammogram or ultrasound exam.

Your doctor might numb your skin first. Then, using a needle and syringe, your doctor will try to drain fluid from the breast lump.

If the lump is a cyst that contains watery fluid, but not blood, and the cyst goes away after aspiration, you will not need other tests.

If the fluid is bloody, your doctor will send the fluid to a lab to see what it is. If the lump in your breast is solid or contains bloody fluid, your doctor will send you to a surgeon for a biopsy. The biopsy involves the removal of a tiny bit of the lump. The bit of tissue is examined in a lab to see what it is.

What are the benefits of breast cyst aspiration?

Your doctor may be able to diagnose your breast lump on the same day that you get the aspiration. If the lump is clearly a cyst, you will know right away, and you might not need to get other tests.

Can other problems happen because of breast cyst aspiration?

Before you have breast cyst aspiration, your doctor will talk to you about possible problems. You might have some discomfort where the needle goes in. You might have a little bruise on your breast. You might get an infection at the aspiration site.

Do I need to see my doctor again after I have breast cyst aspiration?

Yes. If the lump in your breast is a cyst and the cyst is drained successfully, your doctor will want to recheck the area in four to six weeks to make sure that the cyst has not filled up with fluid again. This follow-up visit is important. A cyst that refills with fluid can be a problem. If a cyst refills at any time, call your doctor.

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