Q: I have a history of cysts forming in my breasts due
to hormonal changes. They usually appear a day or two after my menstrual cycle.
I've had many scares, especially when one formed in my left breast. They go
away with antibiotics. I just have one question. I know that cysts are sacs
of fluid and are movable to the touch, but can a malignant lump move the same
way? When you press on it, does it move around? Is it sore or itchy?
Thanks again for such a wonderful site. --A. A.
Dr. Donnica: I'm sorry to hear about your breast cysts. I'm also
confused about why you'd need to take antibiotics for them. In general, cysts
that come with the menstrual cycle go away without treatment or other intervention.
They are annoying, and while they do require increased vigilance, they are generally
not malignant. You should aim to do your breast exam on the 5th day after
your period starts.
It is not possible to distinguish a benign from a malignant cyst by physical
exam alone with certainty. However, the features of a benign cyst that we generally
look for are whether it's freely movable, has regular edges, and has a rounded
(versus flat) feeling. Ironically, benign cysts are more likely to feel tender
to the touch, especially during or just before menses. Benign or malignant lumps
may feel itchy.
It is important to review your findings with your physician. The most significant
findings are new or different lumps or masses that vary from your personal baseline.
I hope this information is helpful to you. For more information on breast
self-exams, click here.
Donnica L. Moore, MD
Created: 9/15/2002  - Donnica Moore, M.D.