Cysts are smooth, rounded, mobile lumps in the breast filled with fluid.

They are very common and particularly between the ages of 35 and 50. About one in five women in this age group will have cysts shown if examined carefully with ultrasound although most women who have them will never know they are there. Many are small and soft and can’t be felt and never cause any symptoms. They tend to disappear after the menopause.

Women with cysts often have other women in the family affected . Some are large and hard enough to be seen or felt through the skin. They may be painful and only then do they need treatment.

How are cysts diagnosed?

Cysts are best diagnosed by ultrasound. Ultrasound is a very reliable way of distinguishing a simple cyst for a possibly more serious solid lump.

How are cysts treated?

Cysts often need no treatment. Only if a cyst is uncomfortable or the ultrasound is in doubt do cyst need draining.

The fluid removed from cysts varies in colour from yellow to green to blue-black. Only if the fluid is bloodstained will it be sent for further tests.

A very small number of women have repeated problems from painful cysts. We occasional advise anti-oestrogen (tamoxifen), anti-progesterone (danazol) drugs or bromocriptine to reduce prolactin levels. All these drugs tend to have side effects and are reserved only for women whose lives are being serious inconvenienced by their cysts.