News at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center  

Can benign cysts become cancerous?

Dr. Edgardo Rivera  

Edgardo Rivera, MD, medical director at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Question: Can benign cysts become cancerous?

Answer: Benign cysts can become cancerous, however, it is extremely uncommon for them to do so.  Most females may have cysts sometime during their lifetime, the most common type being cyclical lumps. Cyclical lumps are cysts that appear on the breasts during the menstrual cycle and usually disappear or shrink when the cycle is over. Although these lumps, along with any other abnormal lumps or cysts, are usually not harmful, it is a good idea to get them examined by a physician just to be sure.

A physician may perform a manual breast exam first, but then will most likely recommend that an ultrasound is done to examine the cyst or lump in question. The current technology of an ultrasound machine makes these examinations incredibly quick and easy. An ultrasound machine is used by a certified ultrasound technician who holds a small metal probe against the areas being looked at. The probe sends high-frequency sound waves through the examined area and turns them into images on a screen for the technician to read. The technician then relays the exam findings to the doctor who can explain everything. Ultrasound exams do not hurt and are very helpful in examining different parts of the body. If a more detailed diagnosis is needed, there are additional tests that can be done as determined by your physician.

Though it is uncommon for a cyst to become cancerous, it is important to know that breast cancer is often treatable when detected in time. The most important thing for women to remember is to get their yearly mammogram and perform monthly self-examinations. Be proactive and if you are unsure about a lump in your breast, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center
Higley Road and US 60
2946 E. Banner Gateway Drive
Gilbert, AZ 85234
(480) 256-6444
(855) 256-6444

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