The breast is made up of different kinds of tissues including the glandular tissue and the fibrous breast tissue etc. A breast fibroadenoma is a non cancerous tumor that is made of the fibrous breast and glandular tissue and appears as a small lump in the breast.
Fibroadenoma can either occur as a single lump or as groups of small lumps spread throughout the breast and the surrounding regions. While single fibroadenomas are simple and benign, multiple fibroadenomas are complex and can cause breast cancer in certain cases.
Usually spotted during self examination or a mammogram, fibroadenomas are soft, rubbery to the touch and contain defined edges which make them highly mobile (i.e. they move around in the breast easily, slipping from your fingers frequently). It is this mobility that earns them their nicknames; ‘Breast Mouse’ or ‘Breast Mice’.
Fibroadenoma Sizes and Causes
The occurrence of fibroadenomas in women largely depends on the hormonal levels in the body. The standard sizes of fibroadenomas may vary from 1 cm to 5 cm with larger tumors growing to almost 15 cm. The tumors are generally tender and can be spotted easily during self examination of the breast right before the menstrual cycles start (hormonal changes in the body would cause the tumors to swell up).
Some women may experience these tumors during their premenopausal and postmenopausal stages when the hormonal levels (mainly the estrogen levels) in the body undergo a significant change. Pregnant women can also develop fibroadenoma during the initial stages of their pregnancy. In certain cases, fibroadenomas can also occur in women who opt for Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Age Vs. Fibroadenomas
Fibroadenomas are very common in adolescent women and are more prominent in the age group of 15-30 years. Existing fibroadenomas would usually disappear on their own with time while the occurrence of new fibroadenomas would significantly reduce after a woman crosses 30 years of age. Fibroadenomas that don’t disappear with time would usually stop growing and remain in the breasts as small, mobile lumps.
Signs and Symptoms of Fibroadenomas
Fibroadenomas are non cancerous growths that do not need to be taken seriously save for a few extremely rare cases where they can turn malignant. Nevertheless, it is considered wise to know the basic signs of a breast fibroadenoma so that it would be easier to differentiate the same from other kinds of breast lumps, lesions or cysts.
The tell tale sign of a breast fibroadenoma is the appearance of a small and firm but highly mobile lump in the breast. The lump would be rubbery to the touch and would usually be painless. It would be pretty evasive (hard to catch hold of owing to its mobility) and would move around freely in the breast unlike other stationary lumps.
Diagnosis of Fibroadenomas via Clinical Examinations
Even though a fibroadenoma would be easy to spot and differentiate from other lumps in the breast, it would be considered wise to opt for a clinical examination and diagnosis to rule out anomalies if any.
A clinical examination would study the fibroadenoma in detail via a mammography, ultrasound or needle biopsy. A mammogram would usually reveal the fibroadenoma to be an oval shaped, smooth edged mass with a clearly defined outline. In certain cases, the fibroadenoma would contain coarse calcium deposits (calcifications) on its surface.
Fibroadenomas are usually receptive to sound waves and would reflect nicely in mammograms. However, in cases where the mammogram provides an indefinite result, an MRI would be done to diagnose the growth. A more detailed diagnosis would be obtained by removing a small part of the growth from the breast via a core needle biopsy and sending it to the pathologist for a thorough examination.
Treatment Options for Fibroadenomas
Fibroadenomas usually disappear automatically or remain in situ as stunted growths. Small, painless fibroadenomas are usually left undisturbed, but are monitored via ultrasounds and mammograms routinely to watch out for abnormal growth or other anomalies.
According to many studies relating to breast fibroadenomas, growth rates of less than 14% in women above 50 years old and growth rates of less than 17% in women below 50 years age are considered perfectly normal. These kinds of fibroadenomas would be left alone for the most part except for routine observations.
In Situ Ablation
In situ ablation of small fibroadenomas can be done quickly and effectively with increased chances of quick recovery. This process would leave miniscule scars at the treatment site that usually heal with time as well.
In certain cases, fibroadenomas can be effectively treated using laser ablation that would effectively remove the growth by burning it with a MRI guided steady laser beam. Laser ablation would target only the tumor and leave the other areas of the breast relatively unharmed.
However, to receive the treatment, a woman should be above 18 years of age, should not be pregnant, and should not be lactating at the time of treatment. Laser ablation would also be considered only in cases where the growth is smaller than 2 centimeters (in diameter) and is at least 0.5 centimeters beneath the skin surface.
A breast fibroadenoma can also be effectively removed or destroyed by exposing it to extreme cold. Cyro Ablation works on this principle to get rid of the non cancerous growth tissue with minimal invasive surgery.
In this case, a probe is inserted into the breast near the lump. With the help of an ultrasound, the probe is then used to expose the fibroadenoma to extremely cold temperatures. This would effectively get rid of the cells causing the growth and enable the body to reabsorb them.
As in the case of laser ablation, Cyro-Ablation would cause minimal scarring and would take only about 30 minutes. However, the procedure can be considered only in cases where the growth is smaller than 4 cm (in diameter), is clearly visible on the ultrasound and is diagnosed by the histology department.
If the fibroadenoma caused pain, is too large to be treated by other methods or shows signs of abnormal growth (cancerous), it would need to be removed by lumpectomy, a procedure that would remove the tumor and a small amount of breast tissue around it. The procedure is carried out via surgical excision and would usually be recommended if a biopsy reveals the growth to be a phyllodes tumor (exhibit rapid growth of 2-3 centimeters in just a few weeks).