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Breast Cyst vs Cancer: What Are The Differences?

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Breast cancer is a fear that most women have at the back of their heads. That is why for most people self-breast exam is hard to go through. They tend to panic when the breast does not feel like it usually does. Finding something on your breast is frightening but how do we know that it is a cancerous tumor or a cyst?

Continue reading to find out their differences and their likely features.

breast cancer

What is a breast cyst?

Women of any age can develop breast cysts, but those who are premenopausal are more likely to do so.

Cysts in the breast are fluid-filled sacs that develop there. Typically, they are innocuous (benign). You can have a single breast cyst or more. Although it can also feel hard, a breast cyst typically feels like a grape or a water-filled balloon.

Breast cysts are not often treated unless they are large, painful, or unpleasant. In that case, emptying a breast cyst of fluid might assist with symptoms.

What are the symptoms of breast cysts?

Breast lumps or areas of thickening that are painful to the touch are possible symptoms of breast cysts. Also, the mass can move around readily under the skin. Furthermore, some women can feel pain or discomfort in their breasts, especially prior to their period.

Breast cysts occasionally go unnoticed for long periods of time. If you encounter any symptoms that worry you or observe any changes in your breasts, it's crucial to see a doctor. To find out if a breast cyst is present, they will be able to undertake an examination and perhaps a diagnostic imaging test.

breast cyst

What causes breast cysts?

The breast ducts may become obstructed as a result of hormonal changes, such as an increase in estrogen and progesterone levels, which can result in a cyst developing. Breast cysts can also develop as a result of specific drugs or medical conditions, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Cysts may additionally form as a result of damage to the breast tissue. Some breast cysts may also be fibroadenomas, which are benign (non-cancerous) tumors.

What is a breast tumor?

An unnatural cell growth within the breast tissue is known as a tumor. The benign (non-cancerous) or malignant nature of these cells might cause a lump or tumor to form (cancerous). Breast lumps that are benign are also referred to as benign breast tumors; they are not cancerous and do not metastasize. They are treatable and don't need any more care. They could have a fibroadenoma, cysts, or even lipomas, among other various forms.

Breast cancer, also known as malignant breast tumors, is cancer that, if left untreated, can spread to other body parts. Both men and women can acquire breast cancer, but women are more likely to do so. The most typical signs of breast cancer include a lump or mass in the breast, changes to the breast's size or form, and modifications to the skin or nipples. Breast soreness, changes in the size or shape of the nipple or areola, or discharge from the nipple are examples of further symptoms.

symptoms of breast cysts

Symptoms of breast tumor

A tumor is swelling or growth in any part of the body. It contains solid masses of tissue that are not normal. It can be cancerous or noncancerous.

The symptoms of breast tumors can vary depending on the type of tumor and its location.

Some common symptoms include:

  • A lump or mass in the breast

  • Pain or tenderness in the breast (especially when pressed)

  • Nipple discharge, rash, redness, or scaling skin around the nipple area

  • Change in size or shape of the breast

Noncancerous breast tumors

The majority of benign breast tumors are fibroadenomas. They are large, round, smooth lumps that are easily movable under the skin. Women under the age of 30 are often the ones who have them.

  • Cysts are sacs filled with fluid that can develop in the breast tissue. They frequently have benign characteristics and do not raise the risk of breast cancer.

  • Lipomas are benign tumors formed of fat cells are called lipomas. They typically feel soft to the touch and are movable beneath the skin.

  • Phyllodes Tumors are breast tumors that grow in the breast's connective tissue.

  • Duct papillomas are benign tumors that grow in the breast's milk ducts. They might result in nipple discharge.

cancerous breast tumors

Cancerous breast tumors

Malignant breast tumors are characterized by the presence of aberrant cell growths that, if left untreated, can metastasize (spread to other regions of the body) and kill the patient. Breast cancer is by far the most common form of malignant breast tumor. A malignant growth in the breast tissues causes cancer.

In terms of frequency, the most common subtypes of breast cancer are:

  • One kind of breast cancer, known as ductal carcinoma, develops in the milk ducts and then metastasizes to other parts of the breast.

  • Tumors that begin in the lobes: Breast lobular carcinomas begin in the milk-producing glands known as lobules.

  • An unusual and dangerous form of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer manifests with a reddened, swollen breast that is also warm to the touch.

The differences between a breast cyst and a tumor

Breast cysts and tumors can be difficult to tell apart, but here's what you need to know:

A breast cyst is a small, fluid-filled sac that develops in the nipple. It is often painless and can be treated with over-the-counter medication if it becomes painful.

On the other hand, a tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue (usually cancerous) that has spread from its original site to other parts of the body. A tumor may cause changes in size or shape or pain or discomfort due to pressure on surrounding tissues.

Likely features of a breast cyst

The most common symptom of a breast cyst is a lump in the breast that feels different from the surrounding tissue. The lump may be soft and pliable or firm and solid, depending on its size and location within the breast. Larger cysts may cause pain or tenderness when pressed against.

In addition to experiencing symptoms like pain or tenderness, some people experience other symptoms related to their cysts such as:

  • Itching around the nipple area or underarms

  • Swelling in one area of your body (often the arm)

  • Redness or discoloration around one side of your chest wall

  • A rash on your chest wall or neck area

triwi breast cancer

Do you know the best way to do self breast exam? With Triwi of course. Notice the signs of breast cancer early and stay safe!

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