Know about breast cysts

Finding a lump in your breast is a fast route to stress city. What with all the scary breast cancer stats out there—like how 1 in 8 women will develop the disease over the course of her lifetime, or how more than 40,000 women in the U.S. are expected to die from it in 2017, according to—it’s easy to feel panicked over a newly found bump in your breast.

But not all bumps mean you have cancer. If you find one, you might be experiencing what doctors call a fibrocystic breast change, or a breast cyst.

“It’s a term used to describe normal breast tissue that is nodular or lumpy on palpation [a fancy term for examination by touch] of the breast,” said Lauren Cornell, M.D., an internal medicine physician at the Robert and Monica Jacoby Center for Breast Health at Mayo Clinic. “When examined microscopically, the tissue has fluid-filled sacs, or cysts, and prominent fibrous tissue.”


If you’re a woman, you could probably bet money that you’ll have fibrocystic breasts at one point or another—typically between ages 20 and 50.

“Estimates suggest over 50 percent of women might experience fibrocystic breast changes during their lifetimes,” said Alyssa Dweck, M.D., a gynecologist at CareMount Medical in New York and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V.

It’s so common, in fact, that the medical community stopped calling the condition by its original name, “fibrocystic breast disease,” and started referring to it as “fibrocystic breast changes” instead, really driving the point home that breast cysts are a natural occurrence in the body—and that they don’t necessarily mean something’s wrong.

So if you find a lump, before you jump to assuming you’re dealing with the worst-case scenario, remember these seven must-know facts about fibrocystic breasts.

Breast cysts don’t make you more susceptible to breast cancer

You might think that fibrocystic breasts have the C-word written all over them. But in reality, they are benign—so having them doesn’t mean you have cancer, and it doesn’t up your chances of developing cancer, either.

“It is important to know that having fibrocystic breast changes does not increase your risk of breast cancer,” said Nicole Zaremba, M.D., breast oncology surgeon at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. “Many women with fibrocystic breasts have a history of multiple benign solid breast masses.”