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 might cause a little pain, but they are usually benign (not cancerous).

What is breast cyst aspiration?

In breast cyst aspiration, your doctor uses a small needle to withdraw (aspirate) fluid from a cyst.

When is breast cyst aspiration used?

A breast lump that you can feel might hurt. Or it might make you worry about cancer. Breast cyst aspiration can help your doctor find out if the lump you feel is a cyst or a tumor. Aspiration gives you this information right away. You don’t have to wait for the results of a mammogram or an ultrasound exam.

Path to improved health

How is breast cyst aspiration performed?

Your doctor might numb your skin first. Then, he or she will insert a small needle into the breast lump. They may use ultrasound to get a better picture of the lump and help guide the needle. Using a syringe, your doctor will try to drain fluid from the lump. There could be several results from the aspiration:

  • The lump is a cyst that contains watery fluid. The cyst goes away after it is drained. You do not need other tests.
  • The lump contains bloody fluid. Your doctor will send the fluid to a lab to find out what it is. You may or may not need further testing.
  • The lump is solid and does not contain fluid. Your doctor will likely recommend imaging tests. This could be an ultrasound or a mammogram. These will give a better look at the lump. Your doctor may want to remove a tiny bit of the lump and send it to a lab to be examined. At the lab, the fluid or sample from the lump can be examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

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. You might not need to have other tests performed.

Things to consider

What are the risks 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 could develop an infection where the needle goes in. But these complications are uncommon.

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 it is drained successfully, your doctor will want to check the area in 4 to 6 weeks. He or she will want to make sure 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 you have a cyst that refills or you develop a new cyst, call your doctor.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Does my breast cyst need to be aspirated?
  • Does aspiration hurt?
  • How long does the procedure take?
  • Will I experience any discomfort afterward?
  • What should I do if the cyst comes back or I get another one?


Breast Cyst Aspiration by Jamee H. Lucas, M.D., and D. Lindsie Cone, M.D.(American Family Physician 11/15/03)