Fast-growing Breast Lumps: Signs, Treatment, and Risks

Phyllodes tumors are fast-growing breast lumps that usually affect women. However, this condition is uncommon compared to other cancer types. Read on to find out more about this condition.

woman holding her left breast

Phyllodes tumors are fast-growing breast lumps although they rarely go beyond the breast region. A review noted that thirty-five to sixty-four percent of these are benign tumors while the rest are malignant or borderline. The society of American cancer says that an estimated twenty-five percent are malignant. Doctors may still recommend surgery even if most of these are benign tumors to prevent any possible further development. There is no exact age when these tumors form, it can form any time but they often affect women between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five. Younger women usually get benign tumors.

Males can also develop these tumors but it occurs very rarely and mostly in those with the health condition gynecomastia. An easily felt a lump in the breast is the common symptom of phyllodes tumor. The tumors grow so quickly and can grow to 2-3cm within weeks. The average diameter is 4cm but may be larger than this. About twenty percent of these tumors surpass 10cm. Phyllodes tumors are usually painless and may be seen against the breast skin. The veins underneath the skin may be expanded due to the effect of the tumor pushing against the skin causing it to have a blue appearance. An ulcer may also form on the skin but is rare. This ulcer can be formed irrespective of whether the tumor is malignant, borderline or benign.

Diagnosis of Fast-Growing Breast Lumps

Phyllodes tumor barely makes up 1 percent of females’ breast tumors. Doctors hardly encounter than making diagnosis difficult. Also, this tumor may take on the appearance of fibroadenoma, a benign regular breast lump. Fibroadenoma is very common and younger women are most susceptible to it.

Some researchers suggest that phyllodes are a kind of fibroadenoma. However, two major differences exist between both.

First, phyllodes grow faster than fibroadenoma. Next, the tumors most often develop a long time after say 10 years. Fibroadenoma usually occurs during the early years of its victims. Knowing these differences will help a doctor in making the correct diagnosis.

Imaging

Diagnosing phyllodes tumors will involve similar methods as other tumors;

  • A mammogram: Results of a mammogram reveals a round mass with defined edges. Round lobes may also appear in the tumor.
  • An ultrasound or MRI: Imaging tests like this may supply extra details. The doctor will request an ultrasound or an MRI.
  • Biopsy: This is the only procedure that can confirm if indeed the tumor is phyllodes. During a biopsy, a portion of the tissue sample is taken for testing. This test will confirm the tumor type.

The doctor may ask for a core needle or excisional type of biopsy. For the core needle, a skin sample is taken with a small hollow needle. This type of biopsy may not supply sufficient evidence that the tumor is phyllodes.

The excisional method involves complete removal of the tumor for laboratory testing. This would most likely give the correct diagnosis. A biopsy does more than confirm to the tumor type it also ascertains of the tumor is borderline, malignant or benign.

Tumor Identification

If the tumor is benign the features will include;

  • Defined edges
  • Cells that are not dividing quickly
  • Cells of the connective tissue that appear normal with no overgrowth

If malignant, expect the following;

  • Irregular edges
  • Rapidly dividing cells
  • Overgrown cells of connective tissues with an abnormal appearance

If borderline the tumor will possess features of both malignant and benign forms

Malignant tumors, especially the ones with overgrowth of connective tissue may grow and spread quickly possibly even go beyond both breasts.

Treatment

Phyllodes tumor treatment involves complete removal of the growth. This will help in preventing the formation of additional tumors and also prevent the existing ones from resulting in complications whether cancerous or benign.

A surgical procedure is done to take out the tumor along with a good measure of its surrounding tissue. The surrounding tissues are removed to lower the chances of the tumor recurring. Cancerous phyllodes tumor may require more surrounding tissue to be removed.

Chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiation therapy may not be able to help a phyllodes cancerous tumor. A full or partial mastectomy may be recommended if the cancerous tumor returns.

Even though tumors of phyllodes do not go past the breasts, treatment has to be administered to curb their growth. If not the lump may grow and break into the skin layers causing discomfort and pain.

Risk

There is little risk of a malignant tumor of this kind to grow past the breast. Only five percent recur on a body part that is not the breast. Benign tumor of phyllodes does not put one at more risk of getting cancer, including cancer of the breast.

Outlook

After phyllodes tumor has been removed the patient may experience some degree of pain at the surgery location but there are rarely any further complications. Malignant tumors have more tendency to recur than benign tumors. Doctors normally monitor for recurrence within one to two years after the tumor has been removed.

The information center for rare and genetic diseases says that individuals who go through surgical procedures for phyllodes benign tumors usually have an excellent outlook. Benign treatment may also cause complications if not treated. This is why people are advised to report any changes in their breast to appropriate medical personnel for help.

Summary

Fast-growing breast lumps are phyllodes tumors that rarely exceed the breast region. These tumors are more often benign than malignant. Women, as well as men, are affected by this tumor but it is seen more in women even though the rate is lower than one percent when compared to other breast cancer rates.  

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