Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 29 March 2021
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Don't be alarmed if the doctor tells you that you have a fibroadenoma in your breast. It's not a type of cancer.
These lumps are among the most common in young women's breasts. They sometimes shrink and vanish without treatment. Doctors may also remove them in certain situations.
What Are Fibroadenomas?
A fibroadenoma is a noncancerous (benign) breast tumour. A fibroadenoma persists in the breast tissue, unlike breast cancer, which becomes bigger with time and can spread to other organs.
They're also quite small. Most of them are just 1 to 2 centimetres in length. It's very unlikely for them to grow to be more than 5 centimetres in diameter.
A fibroadenoma does not usually cause pain. It will seem as though you are carrying a marble under your skin. The texture can be defined as solid, smooth, or rubbery. However, you might not be able to sense anything at all in certain situations.
What Are the Symptoms of Fibroadenomas?
You may not find one until you experience a lump in the shower or after a self-breast exam since they're normally painless.
A doctor can discover it on a mammogram or ultrasound in some cases.
A fibroadenoma does not cause nipple discharge, swelling, redness, or skin inflammation across the breast, unlike breast cancer.
What Causes Fibroadenomas?
Doctors are confused as to what triggers them. They can be due to changing hormone levels since they often occur during adolescence or pregnancy and vanish after menopause.
What Are the Types of Fibroadenomas?
There are many types:
- Simple fibroadenomas. When seen under a microscope, they tend to be the same all over.
- Complex fibroadenomas. These are larger and more common in older women. They may have cells that multiply quickly.
- Juvenile fibroadenomas. The most common form of breast lump seen in girls and adolescents aged 10 to 18. They may develop to be very big, but the majority of them shrink over time. Some disappear.
- Giant fibroadenomas. They can reach a length of more than 2 inches. If they pressure on or replace other breast tissue, they will need to be removed.
Who Gets Them?
Fibroadenomas are very common. About 10% of people have one of these breast lumps, many of whom are unaware of it.
They are most prevalent in women aged 15 to 35, as well as during pregnancy and breastfeeding. According to several findings, people who have a family history of breast cancer are more likely to develop fibroadenomas.
The majority of women only have one. However, only 10% to 15% of women who have them have multiples, either at the same time or over a period.
How Are Fibroadenomas Diagnosed?
You can visit the doctor if you spot a lump in your breast. You can't tell what it is based on how it feels.
Your doctor will most likely examine the lump to determine its texture and size. And if they suspect it's a fibroadenoma, they may suggest you have more scans to be sure.
Depending on your age and if you're breastfeeding, you will need an ultrasound or a mammogram. Both scans are fast and can be performed in the doctor's office.
The photos of your breast tissue will then be analysed by a radiologist to determine if it is a fibroadenoma or anything else.
A biopsy, which includes getting a sample of the lump to be examined in a lab, is the best way for a specialist to be certain it's a fibroadenoma. Your doctor will determine if a biopsy is appropriate based on the results of your examination and scan. A doctor will insert a tiny needle into the breast to extract a small sample from the lump to perform a biopsy.
How Are Fibroadenomas Treated?
It's likely that you won't need any treatment. If the fibroadenoma is small, your doctor may advise you to wait to see if the lump expands or shrinks before attempting to extract it.
If you develop a fibroadenoma when pregnant or breastfeeding, your doctor may decide to wait before your hormone levels return to normal to see if the lump clears up on its own.
If you've had more than one fibroadenoma removed in the past and testing showed that they were fibroadenomas, your doctor may avoid removing any new lumps as well.
If the fibroadenoma becomes bigger, or whether the doctor isn't positive if a bump is a fibroadenoma or not, they'll usually consider getting it removed. This can help that the mass is not cancerous or that it does not grow and distort the underlying breast tissue.
Doctors may remove fibroadenomas in a variety of ways, depending on their size, location, and quantity.
- Lumpectomy or excisional biopsy: This is a quick procedure for removing a fibroadenoma.
- Cryoablation: The specialist examines the fibroadenoma using an ultrasound device. They'll use a device called a cryoprobe to probe the flesh. It uses gas to freeze surrounding tissue, killing the fibroadenoma without the need for surgery.
Aside from routine screening tests, most women would not need much more. They'll continue to have any changes in their breasts examined by a doctor.
As compared to women without fibroadenomas, having a simple fibroadenoma can increase the risk of breast cancer. However, if you have a complicated fibroadenoma, you might be at a slightly higher risk of breast cancer in the future. Unless you have other factors, such as close family members that have had the disease, the chances of developing breast cancer are also small.
In either case, keep up with your regular checkups and ask your doctor which screening tests you require and when they should be performed.
Referenced on 29.3.2021
- Mayo Clinic: “Fibroadenoma.”
- American Cancer Society: “Fibroadenomas,” “Fibroadenomas of the Breast.”
- Kaufman, C. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, June 2004.
- Greenberg, R. Journal of General Internal Medicine, September 1998.
- Medscape: “Breast Fibroadenoma Imaging.”
Merck Manuals: “Fibroadenomas.”
- American Society of Breast Surgeons: “Management of Fibroadenomas of the Breast.”
- Dupont, W. New England Journal of Medicine, July 1994.