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Sunday, November 01, 2009 Marie, Community Member, asks

Q: How common is it that breast cancer is misdiagnosed as cysts?

I am a 47 year old female.  After receiving a diagnostic mammogram followed by an ultrasound, the radiologist assured me that I had 2 cysts and to resume my normal yearly screenings.  I had no indication of any cysts in my breast.  The next day I received a call from my gynocologist's office to make an appointment with a surgeon to have the cysts looked at.  Should I be alarmed?  I had never seen the gynocologist before (my regular doctor was unavailable), and she's recently out of med school.  I have been receiving diagnostic mammograms after my regular mammograms for the past 3 years because of an area in the same breast that is unrelated to where the cysts are.  I'm confused by the concern on the doctors part, and the lack of alarm by the radiologist (who by the way was an older gentleman who I assume is very experienced at reading mammograms).

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Answers (1)
PJ Hamel, Health Guide
11/ 1/09 12:25pm

Sorry, Marie, I'm totally confused by all of this, too. An ultrasound would have identified pretty certainly that you had cysts; was that the case? If so, I'm confused by you saying "I had no indication of any cysts in my breast." Clarify?


Perhaps your gynecologist is being extra-careful, since you're approaching the age where breast cancer becomes more common. She may want you to have a biopsy (thus a visit with the surgeon), just to be extra-sure you're dealing with cysts. If so, be aware that about 85% of biopsies are negative, so the stats would be on your side.


I wouldn't put too much credence in age/experience vs. youth/less experience. I find often the kids right out of medical school are better diagnosticians because they pay a lot of attention; they have newer info. in their brains; and they're not jaded by years of doing the same thing day after day. So I'd pay attention to the gynecologist, perhaps asking her what exactly she wants you to see the surgeon about. Good luck - PJH

Marie, Community Member
11/ 1/09 1:59pm

Thanks for your response and insight PJ.  I didn't feel anything and have had no pain in the breast in question, therefore I was surprised when the ultrasound revealed the cysts.  I have a phone call in to the doctor to get her thoughts on her suggestion for me to visit the surgeon.

Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
11/ 1/09 2:27pm

If the cysts are deep and/or small, you might never feel them.  I had to go back for a second mammogram and a follow-up ultrasound last year to make sure that some small places on my mammo were cysts.  One reason a doctor might want a surgeon to look at cysts is to have them drained to get them out of the way to make sure that there aren't solid lumps behind them.  Cysts by themselves are not dangerous, but if they are hiding a solid lump from view on the mammogram, they can be a problem.  An ultrasound is usually very good at distinguishing a solid lump from a cyst.

Marie, Community Member
11/ 1/09 4:11pm

Thank you for the info Phyllis.


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By Marie, Community Member— Last Modified: 12/17/10, First Published: 11/01/09