Fibroadenoma of the breast

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Summary

  • Fibroadenomas are benign tumours of the breast
  • Cyclical breast pain is commonly associated with fibroadenomas
  • The cause is unknown
  • The lumps may disappear spontaneously

Definition

Fibroadenomas are benign tumours of the breasts containing fibrous or glandular tissue. They are usually round, firm, painless, several centimetres across, somewhat rubbery in texture and mobile on examination, which means that they feel unattached to the breast wall or the skin.

Cyclical breast pain (mastalgia) is commonly associated with fibroadenomas. In contrast to this, breast cancer usually only causes pain when advanced.

Cause

The cause is unknown. Some research suggests that increased fat consumption may play a role.

Prevalence

They occur during a woman's reproductive years and are the most common benign breast tumours seen in women under 40. The highest incidence is in women in their teens and early 20s. Single or multiple fibroadenomas may develop on one or both sides, and are most often found around the nipple or the upper parts of the breasts.

Treatment

The most important aspect to the management is accurate diagnosis. A lump cannot be assumed to be a fibroadenoma on clinical examination alone. A triple test should be carried out:

  • Clinical examination of the lump. The lump is generally firm, rubbery and well defined. It may vary with the monthly cycle.
  • Radiological imaging: Mammography is rarely useful as women who have fibroadenomas tend to have dense breasts. An ultrasound examination is better.
  • Needle biopsy: A needle should be inserted to take cells from the lump.

If all of these show the lump to be a fibroadenoma, it can be left. Should it increase in size, it should be removed.

(Reviewed by Dr Jenny Edge, General Surgeon)

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