Under certain circumstances, a cyst on a mammogram can have a benign appearance, but under other circumstances, it can look very concerning to a doctor.
When women hear that their mammogram is showing a cyst, this is frightening – as we all know that a “cyst” can ultimately be diagnosed as cancer.
“There are certain characteristics of cysts that categorize them as benign,” says Mylaine Riobe, MD, founder of Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine. Dr. Riobe, board certified in OB/GYN and integrative medicine, is the author of “The Answer to Cancer.”
Dr. Riobe explains, “A well-circumscribed, clear fluid filled cyst is usually benign. A cyst that appears ‘complex’ with septations is more worrisome.”
Septations refers to a compartmentalized appearance.
A breast cancer mass will not look like a nice little circle or sphere with a smooth boundary. It will have protrusions or spindles emanating from it.
But not all cysts look like perfectly round, fluid-filled sacs, either. And if the patient is already aware of this fact, it will cause even more anxiety.
If this has recently happened to you, remind yourself that a mammogram does not have the final word on whether a “concerning mass” is malignant.
If this has not happened to you, and instead you are simply wanting to know more information about how benign or malignant cysts look on a mammogram, you may want to consider tomosynthesis.
Tomosynthesis is a 3-D type of mammogram (the standard type is only 2-D), and is thus much more likely to pick up masses or details that could be missed by the 2-D version.
Biopsy of the Cyst Has the Last Word
Despite a suspicious cyst’s appearance on a mammogram, only a biopsy can diagnose it as malignant or benign.