a lump in your breast can be a scary experience, but not all lumps and tumors
are cancerous. One type of benign (non-cancerous) tumor is called a fibroadenoma.
While not life-threatening, a fibroadenoma may still require treatment.
A fibroadenoma is a non-cancerous tumor in the breast that
is commonly found in women under the age of 30. According to Mammotome, fibroadenomas
are diagnosed in approximately 10 percent of women in the United States (Mammotome).
African-American women are more likely to develop these tumors.
The tumor consists of breast tissue and connective (stromal) tissue. According to Dr. David Zieve for PubMed, while most women only have one
tumor, 10 to 15 percent of women have multiple lumps (PubMed).
Fibroadenomas can occur in one or both breasts.
Some fibroadenomas are so small that they cannot be felt.
When you are able to feel one, it is very distinct from the surrounding tissue.
The edges are clearly defined and the tumors have a detectable shape. They are
moveable under the skin and are typically not tender. These tumors often feel
like marbles, but may have a rubbery feel to them.
The exact cause of fibroadenomas is not known. Hormones such
as estrogen may play a part in the growth and development of the tumors. Taking
oral contraceptives before the age of 20 has been associated with a higher risk
of developing fibroadenomas.
These tumors may grow, particularly during pregnancy. During
menopause, they often shrink. It is also possible for fibroadenomas to resolve
on their own.
There are two types of fibroadenomas: simple fibroadenomas
and complex fibroadenomas. The simple tumors do not increase breast cancer risk
and look the same all over when viewed under a microscope. The complex tumors
contain other components such as macrocysts
(fluid-filled sacs large enough to feel and to see without a microscope) and calcifications (calcium deposits).
Complex fibroadenomas can slightly increase your risk of
breast cancer. The American Cancer Society states that women with complex
fibroadenomas have approximately one and a half to two times greater risk of
developing breast cancer than women with no breast lumps (ACS).
A physical examination will be conducted and your breasts
will be palpated (examined manually). A breast ultrasound or mammogram imaging
test may also be ordered. A breast
ultrasound involves lying on a table while a hand-held device called a transducer is moved over the skin of
the breast, creating a picture on a screen. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast taken while the breast is
compressed between two flat surfaces.
A fine needle
aspiration or biopsy may be
performed to remove tissue for testing. This involves inserting a needle into
the breast and removing small pieces of the tumor. The tissue will then be sent
to a lab for microscopic examination to determine the type of fibroadenoma and if
it is cancerous.
If you are diagnosed with a fibroadenoma, it does not
necessarily have to be removed. Depending on your physical symptoms, family
history, and personal concerns, you and your doctor can decide whether to have
it removed or not. Fibroadenomas that do not grow and are definitely not
cancerous can be closely monitored with clinical breast exams and imaging tests,
such as mammograms and ultrasounds.
The decision to have a fibroadenoma removed typically depends
on the following:
- if it impacts the natural
shape of the breast
- if it causes pain
- if you are concerned about
- if you have a family
history of cancer
- if you received questionable
If a fibroadenoma is removed, it is possible for one or more
to grow in its place.
Due to the slightly increased risk of breast cancer, you
should have regular checkups with your doctor and schedule regular mammograms
if you have fibroadenomas. You should also make breast self-exams a regular
part of your routine. If there are any changes in the size or shape of an
existing fibroadenoma, call your doctor right away.