There is nothing that scares a woman as much a discovering a breast lump. A lot of things would run through your mind if you were to find a lump in one of your breasts. Could it be cancer? Well, not all breast lumps are cancerous. There are many breast lumps that are just benign. Benign lumps could be filled with liquid (usually called cysts) or they could have a solid feel (usually called fibroadenomas). Fibroadenoma of breast accounts for half of all the breast lumps tested by biopsy. This makes it the most common of all benign breast lumps, especially in adolescents.
Fibroadenomas of the breast are not usually very large. Their usual size is between 2cm to 3cm. But then, if they are not properly treated, they can grow very large; as large as 10cm or even more. When this happens, it distorts the symmetry of the breast and in some cases, it causes hypertrophy. You probably have many questions on your mind now. How would you know if you have fibroadenoma? What could be the cause? How can it be treated? We will answer these and many more as you read on. One thing you should, however, realize upfront is that fibroadenomas are not cancerous, and they are not considered to be a risk factor for cancer.
What You Should Know About Fibroadenoma
As we have mentioned, a fibroadenoma is a benign lump. Most times, it comes up during the stage of adolescence. However, it can occur anytime in the life span of a woman. There is no age where it becomes certain that you can never have fibroadenoma.
It may surprise you to know that even a man can have fibroadenoma. But then, this is quite a rare occurrence. It occurs mostly in women.
The solid lump in fibroadenoma usually grows from the glands that are in the breast. The lumps usually include the lobules as well as the ducts of these glands.
There are two forms of fibroadenoma that are recognized In the U.S, simple fibroadenoma and complex fibroadenoma. Surprisingly, both types of fibroadenomas are small in size. The only difference between the two is in their physical characteristics.
Simple fibroadenoma typically has a round shape and distinct borders. In fact, if the adenoma is not too deep inside, you will be able to move it easily. It may feel somewhat firm or rubbery to the touch. However, you may not feel any form of pain or discomfort.
Complex fibroadenoma, on the other hand, has an irregular shape. The irregularities that characterize this type of fibroadenoma are why it called complex. It could be that there is cystic change, calcification of epithelial cells, sclerosing adenosis, etc.
There is a 50-50 distribution between the two forms of adenoma. Half of the cases are simple while the other half is complex.
If the fibroadenoma occurs in a girl that is between the ages of 10 and 18, it may be referred to as juvenile fibroadenoma. Although this is not a recognized type in the U.s, it is recognized in some other countries.
Juvenile fibroadenoma is different because it has the tendency to grow very large within a short period of time. But then, most times, the fibroadenoma eventually shrinks or sometimes even completely disappears.
Another classification that is not recognized in the US is giant fibroadenomas. This is used to describe a fibroadenoma that becomes greater than 5cm in size. This often causes pain and discomfort. More so, the distortion of breast symmetry is usually visible. The affected breast would visibly be larger than the other.
Fibroadenoma of Breast Symptoms
How would you know if you have fibroadenoma? A small solid lump in the breast is the most obvious indication of fibroadenoma. This lump would typically feel firm rubbery to the touch. Somewhat like a marble feel.
Another thing you would notice with a fibroadenoma is that you can move it easily under your skin. If you notice all of these and you have no discomfort or pain, then you most likely have fibroadenoma. More so, if the borders of the lump are well-defined.
But then, there are times that the fibroadenoma is situated way deep into the breast that you may not be able to feel it or move it. Those that are quite close to the surface of your skin are the ones that you can easily feel or move.
Some women don’t even realize that they have fibroadenoma until they become pregnant. During pregnancy, it is possible that any existing fibroadenoma lump will grow rapidly.
Most times, fibroadenomas shrink when a woman enters menopause. But then, if you notice any unusual lump in your breast, don’t just pass it off as fibroadenoma. Visit your doctor and get tested. And if you have a fibroadenoma, make sure to report any noticeable change to your doctor for evaluation.
What Causes Fibroadenoma of Breast
What are the causes of fibroadenoma? Are there any risk factors? The truth is that no one has been able to find out what exactly causes fibroadenoma. But then, it is clear that some reproductive hormones play a role in its development, particularly progesterone and estrogen.
Since these hormones are involved, you may be at risk of fibroadenoma if you are on hormone replacement therapy or if you are taking oral contraceptives. A few other risk factors are as follows:
- Pre-menopausal women
- Women who had heavy physical activities in their 20s
- Excessive consumption of caffeinated drinks and products
How to Treat a Fibroadenoma
The treatment plan for fibroadenoma may vary from one person to another. However, in general, simple lumps may not require any form of medical treatment. In most cases, they either shrink or even disappear with time.
What doctors recommend is that after you have been diagnosed, you should get screened again after 6 months and then, after a year. This will monitor the progression of the lump to know whether it would require any form of medical intervention.
But when it comes to complex lumps, your doctor may advise you to remove it surgically. This is mostly to put your mind at peace and to ease any form of physical discomfort.
In cases of juvenile fibroadenoma, you should generally just observe, and not rush to do surgical removal. You should only consider surgical removal if the lump grows too large and becomes a giant fibroadenoma.
Surgery is the definitive treatment for large lumps that may be causing pain. There are three forms of surgical removal for fibroadenomas:
- Lumpectomy – Simply put, the surgeon cuts out the lump
- Excisional biopsy – The lump is not only removed, but it is also tested
- Cryoablation – The surgeon uses gas to freeze the fibroadenoma and destroy it.
It is possible for fibroadenoma of the breast to recur after surgical removal, but this is not so common. However, you have no reason to fear for your life if you have fibroadenoma. Fibroadenomas are not life-threatening.