Any rapid growing breast lump causes concern. Knowing what to look for during breast self-examination can either lay fears to rest or precede a visit to the family doctor. Of the four kinds of breast lumps, i.e., cysts, fibroademomas (round, hard, benign composition of fibrous or glandular cells), pseudolumps (benign hard lumps of scar tissue, hardened silicone, necrotic fat or pressure put on the breast tissue by ribs), and malignant cells (cancerous irregular-shaped hard lumps with bumpy surfaces), cysts remain the most common and least worrisome.
Since breast cysts are sacs (smaller than a raisin to larger than a golf ball) of clear, yellow, grey, or green fluid in oval or round, soft, spongy areas found in the breast, any change in size would indicate a change in fluid levels in the sac. If anything like a fibre or hardened mass lurks in the fluid, the lump cannot be considered a cyst and must be diagnosed again Even though one in 1,000 fluid-filled sacs might have a tumour, the tumour usually turns out to be benign, reports California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC). Fibrocystic breasts, or fibrocystic disease as it was once called, manifest themselves as simply lumpy sometimes tender breasts. This is not a disease but a condition, which may be painful but not a cause for concern. According to the American Cancer Society, when the breast lump grows quickly the fast growing abnormal cells are termed "atypical hyperplasia" and are not cysts.
The actual cause of breast cysts is unknown, says the Mayo Clinic. Cysts appear when the fibrous and glandular tissue surrounding the milk gland blocks the milk duct causing it to enlarge and fill with fluid. Often, these cysts pop up a week or so before the menstrual period and may grow rapidly until the start of the period when they usually disappear. Since women nearing menopause get more cysts than other age groups, hormonal imbalance may be a factor. Some other theories include: fluid produced faster than the breast can absorb it, infection, genetics, or reoccurring inflammatory diseases such as fibrocystic condition.
Although most cysts can be found during either a self-exam or doctor's exam, some locate deep in breast tissue near the chest wall and can only be detected through mammograms and ultrasounds--which can find them from 95 to 100 per cent of the time, according to CPMC.
Most breast cysts appear right before the period in the menstrual cycle. They may grow quickly and cause pain, especially if they occur under the arms and breasts. Usually, once the period starts, they recede and may disappear completely. Cysts found in mammograms one year may not be detected the next year, claims CPMC.
Since most cysts disappear quickly after the start of a period, they require little to no treatment. Applying progesterone creams can alleviate any pain or using oral contraceptives can help. Stopping the use of hormone replacement drugs may help a menopausal sufferer. On the other hand, if the cyst continues to grow and if it becomes extremely painful, the doctor can extract the fluid by using a needle in a process called "fine-needle aspiration." According to The California Pacific Medical Center, a radiologist at a health clinic perform an Ultrasound Guided Breast Cyst Aspiration, as well. In some extreme cases surgery becomes necessary.