Fibroadenoma of the breast
Fibroadenoma is a term used to describe a broad range of solid, benign breast lesions that commonly effect premenopausal women. Fibroadenomas are often discovered as a palpable mass which might feel firm, smooth, rubbery or hard, perhaps like a pea or a grape. They are usually painless and will often move easily when touched.
Fibroadenomas usually develop in the normal breast from the lobules, which are the glands responsible for milk production. The surrounding tissue and breast ducts grow over the lobule creating a benign breast tumor or lump.
Fibroadenomas are most common in women in their 20’s and carry very little risk of progressing to breast cancer. If you find any unusual hard lump in your breast it is important to have a clinical examination with your physician or breast care center as soon as possible.
I would like to let you know that we have created a newer version of this page, with more up-to-date information.
Composed of fibrous and glandular tissue
Fibroadenomas are made up of fibrous and glandular connective tissue which has grown more rapidly than usual and also in unexpected ways, resulting in breast lumps. They can range in size from under 1 cm all the way up to several centimeters in diameter, and can occur singularly, in groups or as a complex.
Fibroadenomas are affected by hormones and tend to fluctuate (or increase) in size during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and breast feeding or if using hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives.
Fibroadenomas alone do NOT increase the risk of breast cancer
Fibroadenomas themselves do NOT pose any risk of breast cancer development throughout the breast tissue. On many older websites, this one included, it has been suggested that Fibroadenomas may be associated with an increased likelihood of developing breast cancer. Some information still holds to this theory so let’s take a look at where this theory came from and the latest development of thought.
Causes of fibroadenoma
The cause of a fibroadenoma is unknown, but they are likely related to abundant estrogen, as they are common in young women. It might be related to the hormone-receptor mechanisms.
Treatments for breast fibroadenoma
Most fibroadenomas are simply left alone however, some women prefer to have the lump surgically removed as they do have a tendency to grow during pregnancy or hormonal fluctuations. An alternative to surgery is laser ablation whereby a laser beam is directed to the fibroadenoma and it is destroyed. This method has the advantage of leaving minimal scarring.
On a different note, every women should give their selves a breast self-examination or attend screening regularly. Furthermore, most biopsies and procedures are performed with local anesthetic so should not be painful at all.
Here are a few Q&A’s…
- Where is fibroadenoma found? In the breast. Here’s a fun fact: When someone has multiple nodules, it’s probably indicating they are benign fibroadenomas. If someone has the tendency to form one, that tendency can lead to multiple fibroadenomas too.
- What are the fibroadenoma symptoms? Round with distinct borders, easily movable under the skin, firm or rubbery, and painless.
- What causes fibroadenoma? This is unknown. However, the development may be related to reproductive hormones.
- When the fibroadenoma grow the most? It can become larger during pregnancy, when breast feeding, or use of hormone therapy, and may even shrink after menopause, when hormone levels decrease.
- Are there any fibroadenoma complications? It does not affect your risk of breast cancer. However, your breast cancer risk might increase a little bit if you have a complex fibroadenoma – which may contain abnormal cysts or dense, opaque tissue called calcifications.
- What are the tests/diagnosis? Mammography, breast ultrasound, fine-needle aspiration, and core needle biopsy. This all depends on your age and the characteristics of the lump.
- I have been told that I have fibrocystic breast disease is this the same as a fibroadenoma? Fibrocystic disease is an umbrella term that covers a whole range of benign breast diseases. These conditions include radial scar, cysts, adenosis, fibroadenoma and some types of hyperplasis such as ductal hyperplasia and lobular hyperplasia (although atypical lobular hyperplasia is more concerning).
- I have had a fibroadenoma removed but it appears to have come back, is this likely?Yes local recurrence is possible. If you have had one or more fibroadenomas in the past then you are more likely to have them again. Furthermore, for unknown reasons, certain ethnic groups such as african-american women are more likely to develop fibroadenomas.
- Why is surgery sometimes avoided? surgery can distort the shape and texture of the breast, fibroadenomas sometimes shrink or disappear on their own, and the breast has multiple fibroadenomas that appear to be stable (no changes in size on an ultrasound compared to an earlier ultrasound).
- Dupont,W., Page,D., Parl, F., Vnencak-Jones, C., Plummer, W., Rados, M., Schuyler. Long-Term Risk of Breast Cancer in Women with Fibroadenoma. The New England Journal of Medicine, July 1994Vol. 331,1 p. 10-15.
- Carter CL, Corle DK, Micozzi MS, Schatzkin A, Taylor PR. A prospective study of the development of breast cancer in 16,692 women with a benign tumor in the breast. Am J Epidemiol 1988;128:467-477.
- Courtillot C, et al. Benign breast diseases. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2005; 10:325-335.
- Gordon PB, Gagnon FA, Lanzkowsky L. Solid breast masses diagnosed as fibroadenoma at fine-needle aspiration biopsy: acceptable rates of growth at long-term follow-up. Radiology. 2003 Oct;229(1):233-8.
- Levi F, Randimbison L, Te VC, La Vecchia C. Incidence of breast cancer in women with fibroadenoma. Int J Cancer 1994 Jun 1;57(5):681-3
- Carter BA, Page DL, Schuyler P, Parl FF, Simpson JF, Jensen RA, Dupont WD. No elevation in long-term breast carcinoma risk for women with fibroadenomas that contain atypical hyperplasia. Cancer 2001 Jul 1;92(1):30-6
- Sapino A, Bosco M, Cassoni P, Castellano I, Arisio R, Cserni G, Tos AP, Fortunati N, Catalano MG, Bussolati G. Estrogen receptor-beta is expressed in stromal cells of fibroadenoma and malignant phyllodes tumors of the breast. Mod Pathol. 2006 Apr;19(4):599-606.