All breast fibroadenomas don’t require surgery

post by Rohan Khandelwal on April 07th, 2020
All breast fibroadenomas don’t require surgery

Breast fibroadenomas are the most common cause of breast lumps and they are commonly seen between 15-30 years of age group. We usually see a lot of anxious women presenting to the Breast Centre at CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon with this complaint and all of them have two common questions:

  • can it turn into breast cancer?
  • does it require surgery?

I will address these two questions in the text below but before that I would just like to give you some information regarding breast fibroadenomas.

Clinical presentation – Breast fibroadenomas usually present as painless (non painful) breast lumps which keep shifting their position within the breast. These lumps can remain the same size for long periods of time but sometimes they can present with pain, rapid increase in size. Approximately 10% women can have multiple fibroadenomas [read about the lady with 39 fibroadenomas in both breasts].

There is no known cause for fibroadenomas and no well defined risk factors.

On examination, these lumps are usually firm in consistency and mobile, which is why jokingly they are also known as a ‘breast mouse’.

Diagnosis of a fibroadenoma can be made out on an ultrasound of the breast (which is the preferred imaging technique in patients less than 40 years of age). If a mammogram is done, you can see a ‘popcorn appearance‘ of the lesion.

popcorn appearance

Majority of the fibroadenomas can be clearly made out on an ultrasound but if a lesion is showing some atypical changes, then a tru-cut biopsy/ FNAC (needle test) is recommended to confirm the diagnosis. This is also indicated in patients with a family history of breast cancer.

Coming back to the two questions which all patients with breast fibroadenomas have running through their mind during their visit to a breast surgeon:

  • Can fibroadenomas turn into breast cancer? — Multiple studies have shown that the risk of a fibroadenoma changing into breast cancer is negligible (less than 2%). It is usually more in patients who have atypical fibroadenomas or an existing family history of breast cancer. Patients with a family history of breast cancer should not ignore these breast lumps and should get a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Do all fibroadenomas require surgery? —- Well, not all of these breast lumps require surgery. There are certain indications to surgically remove these lumps:
  • If the fibroadenoma is more than 5 cm in size. Such a fibroadenoma is known as a ‘giant breast fibroadenoma’.
  • If there is a family history of breast cancer. In such cases, it is advisable to remove the lump.
  • If there is rapid increase in size of the lump or it is associated with breast pain which is not getting controlled with medicines.

Surgical removal for fibroadenomas is usually a minor surgery which is done as a day care procedure. The incision for this surgery is usually made around the areola (peri-areolar) as this incision heals with minimal scarring. Sometimes the incision can be made in the skin fold under the breast (infra-mammary crease). Some patients can candidates for scar-less fibroadenoma surgery, in which the lump is removed via a 3-4 mm incision using a special machine.

Peri-areolar incision – scar is hardly visbile after a month

Those patients who are not candidate for surgical excision are asked to follow-up at regular intervals, usually 6 months to 1 year. In addition to this, they are asked to monitor the size of the lump. In case there is a rapid increase in size of the fibroadenoma, they are asked to return immediately. Unfortunately, there is no credible medical management of fibroadenomas.