In breast cyst and nipple discharge fluid analysis, a fluid from a breast cyst or nipple discharge is placed on a slide and examined under a microscope.

Purpose of the Breast Cyst and Nipple Discharge Fluid Analysis

  • To aid in the diagnosis of cancer within a breast cyst
  • To eliminate cancer as a cause of persistent nipple discharge
  • To find out if the lump you feel in your breast is a cyst or a tumor
  • To exclude any associated nipple ulceration or skin change
  • To determine the color of the fluid
  • To determine the number of ducts fluid is originating from

Who Performs Breast Cyst and Nipple Discharge Fluid Analysis

  • A physician

Special Concerns about Breast Cyst and Nipple Discharge Fluid Analysis

  • Many experts believe these tests are overused and not very helpful for the diagnosis of breast cancer. Since most simple breast cysts are benign, fluid analysis should be done only if a cyst recurs after at least 3 aspirations or if the fluid is bloody. Non-bloody nipple discharge is also seldom caused by breast cancer. In addition, the tests may be unreliable since it can be difficult to distinguish severe inflammatory cells from cancer; this may lead to unnecessary biopsies.
  • Nipple discharge is normal during pregnancy and is relatively common in women who have had at least one pregnancy.

Before the Breast Cyst and Nipple Discharge Fluid Analysis

  • Mammography may be performed before cyst aspiration.
  • You will be asked to disrobe from the waist up and put on a hospital gown.

What You Experience

Cyst aspiration:

  • You will lie on your back on an examining table.
  • The doctor will locate the cyst by palpating the breast or with the aid of ultrasound imaging.
  • The skin at the site of needle insertion is cleansed with an antiseptic.
  • A small needle attached to a syringe is inserted into the cyst, and all of the fluid within the cyst is withdrawn. (Local anesthesia may be used, but is not usually necessary.)
  • The doctor may use an ultrasound to get a better image of the lump.
  • Pressure is applied to the aspiration site and a bandage is applied.
  • The test takes several minutes.

Nipple discharge analysis:

  • You will be asked to expose the breast with the persistent discharge.
  • The doctor will squeeze the nipple to express fluid and will look at it under the microscope to see if any cancer cells are found.
  • The test takes less than 1 minute.

Risks and Complications of Breast Cyst and Nipple Discharge Fluid Analysis

  • Rare complications of cyst aspiration include bleeding or infection.
  • You might have some discomfort or a bruise where the needle enters your skin; infection at the site is also possible.

After the Breast Cyst and Nipple Discharge Fluid Analysis

  • You may resume your normal activities.
  • Notify your doctor if you develop pain, swelling, or redness at the cyst aspiration site.

Breast Cyst and Nipple Discharge Fluid Analysis Results

  • The fluid is smeared onto a microscope slide, and a laboratory pathologist inspects the specimen under a microscope for the presence of unusual cells.
  • If no abnormalities are found, no further testing is needed.
  • If suspicious cells are identified, a breast biopsy is required to establish a definitive diagnosis.


The Johns Hopkins Consumer Guide to Medical Tests

Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Editor

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: Editorial Staff at

Published: 13 Jan 2012

Last Modified: 04 Nov 2014