Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
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Screening and diagnosis of a breast cyst usually begins after you or your doctor identify a breast lump. In addition to discussing your symptoms and health history, your doctor will do a breast exam and may do a breast ultrasound or fine-needle aspiration, depending on your needs.
Your doctor will physically examine the breast lump and check for any other problem areas in your breasts. Because your doctor can't tell from a clinical breast exam alone whether a breast lump is a cyst, you'll need another test, either an imaging test or fine-needle aspiration.
Breast ultrasound can help your doctor determine whether a breast lump is fluid-filled or solid. A fluid-filled area usually indicates a breast cyst. A solid-appearing mass most likely is a noncancerous lump, such as a fibroadenoma, but solid lumps also could be breast cancer.
Based on what the doctor sees on the ultrasound, he or she might recommend a biopsy to further evaluate a solid-appearing mass. If your doctor can easily feel a breast lump, he or she may skip breast ultrasound and perform fine-needle aspiration instead.
During a fine-needle aspiration, your doctor inserts a thin needle into the breast lump and attempts to withdraw (aspirate) fluid. Often, fine-needle aspiration is done using ultrasound to guide accurate placement of the needle. If fluid comes out and the breast lump goes away, your doctor can make a breast cyst diagnosis immediately.
- If the fluid is not bloody and the breast lump disappears, you need no further testing or treatment.
- If the fluid appears bloody or the breast lump doesn't disappear, your doctor may send a sample of the fluid for lab testing and refer you to a breast surgeon or to a radiologist — a doctor trained to perform imaging exams and procedures — for follow-up.
- If no fluid is withdrawn, your doctor will likely recommend an imaging test, such as mammography or ultrasound, to further evaluate the lump. Lack of fluid or a breast lump that doesn't disappear after aspiration suggests that the breast lump — or at least a portion of it — is solid, and a sample of cells may be collected and sent for analysis to check for cancer (fine-needle aspiration biopsy).
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