It’s probably happened to you at some point during your life. You felt an unfamiliar bump under your skin and just didn’t know what it was. Or you know someone who was concerned about a mass that the doctors thought might be a tumor, but in fact turned out to be a cyst.
There are various questions surrounding cysts, but the one on most people’s minds is simple: Are cysts dangerous?
The answer, according to Dr. Thomas Sulkowski of Sulkowski Family Medicine in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is that it depends. Helpful, right?
If you keep reading, however, you’ll find some helpful information about cysts from Dr. Sulkowski so you can have an idea if your cyst is dangerous.
What is a cyst?
A cyst is a closed capsule or sac-like structure in your body. It’s usually filled with a liquid or a semi-solid, or possibly a gaseous material.
Cysts aren’t a normal part of the tissue where they’re located. They’re separate from that tissue and have their own distinct membrane. They range in size from microscopic to large enough to displace internal organs.
Most cysts are benign (non-cancerous), but some are cancerous or precancerous and must be removed. In addition, if a cyst is filled with pus, that means it’s infected and could form an abscess, so you should see a doctor if you feel pain when you touch a cyst.
Causes and symptoms of cysts
Cysts can occur anywhere on your body. They’re often the result of a clogged sebaceous gland, an infection, or even a piercing. Other causes include genetics, tumors, a defect in your cells, blockage of ducts, and injuries.
Cysts don’t often make themselves known with lots of symptoms. They usually don’t cause pain unless they become infected or rupture. You usually discover them when you first feel an abnormal lump underneath your skin.
Internal cysts may go unnoticed until an imaging scan like an MRI or ultrasound shows their size and location. Cysts on the breast can often cause pain, and cysts on the brain cause headaches.
For large cysts that are causing problems, a doctor is likely to recommend surgical removal. Another treatment option is draining or aspirating the cyst with a large needle. If they think the cyst may be cancerous, they examine the cells in the liquid or do a biopsy of the cyst wall.
The bottom line is that while cysts are abnormal, they’re fairly common, and most won’t cause a problem. If you’re worried about a cyst or have noticed a new lump form recently, you may want to get it checked by a doctor.
To set up an appointment with Dr. Sulkowski, call the office or use our convenient online scheduler to choose a time that works well for you.