These lumps are not a disease of the breast as they are made up of normal breast tissue more like a little breast within a breast. They most commonly develop in women under the age of 30 but regularly go undetected until a woman has her first formal breast examination by either ultrasound or a screening mammogram. Occasionally they will develop in older women, but in that case must be distinguished from breast cancer by taking a small sample to look at under the microscope (needle biopsy).
Most grow to a particular size and then stay the same. A few will then disappear but most remain long-term. Occasionally a fibroadenoma will continue to grow in which case it is better removed surgically by a small operation.
Fibroadenomas are often multiple. It is quite common to find more than one fibroadenoma in a woman who has come to the clinic with this condition. If a woman has had one fibroadenoma, then she is more likely than average to get another one in the future.
There is no greater a risk of developing cancer in a fibroadenoma than in any other equivalent volume of breast tissue.
How are fibroadenomas diagnosed?
Fibroadenomas are smooth, oval and rubbery to feel. Usually they are painless or perhaps slightly tender. They are best diagnosed by ultrasound although to be absolutely certain, particularly in older women it is best to confirm the diagnosis by taking a small needle sample under local anaesthetic to look at under the microscope.
How are fibroadenomas treated?
Fibroadenomas do not need to be treated provided the diagnosis is certain, they are not enlarging, causing cosmetic problems and not painful. Otherwise, they can be removed which usually requires a small operation under general anaesthetic (as a day case). Some smaller fibroadenomas can be removed using a vacuum assisted needle, microwave system or under local anaesthetic.