Fibroadenoma: Just What Exactly Is That?
"Fibroadenomas are benign
breast tumors commonly found in young women. Fibroadenoma means "a tumor composed of glandular
(related to gland) and fibrous (containing fibers) tissues."
Breast fibroadenomas, abnormal growths of glandular and fibrous tissues, are most common
between the ages of 15 and 30, and are found in 10% of all women (20% of African-American
women). They are found rarely in postmenopausal women.
Described as feeling like marbles, these firm, round, movable, and "rubbery" lumps range from
1-5 cm in size. Giant fibroadenomas are larger, lemon-sized lumps. Usually single, from 10-15%
of women have more than one.
While some types of breast lumps come and go during the menstrual cycle, fibroadenomas
typically do not disappear after a woman's period, and should be checked by a doctor.
Causes and symptoms
The cause of breast fibroadenomas is unknown. They may be dependent upon estrogen, because they
are common in premenopausal women, can be found in postmenopausal women taking estrogen, and
because they grow larger in pregnant women.
Fibroadenomas usually cause no symptoms and may be discovered during breast
, or during a routine check-up.
When the doctor takes a complete medical history, they will ask when the lump was first
noticed, if there were any symptoms or changes in lump size, and if there is any personal or
family history of breast disease.
The doctor thoroughly feels the breasts (palpates). Tests are done, usually including
mammography or ultrasound scans, or surgical removal of cells or tissue for examination under a
the microscope (biopsy).
Diagnostic tests include:
- Mammogram. An x-ray examination of the breast.
- Ultrasound scan. A technique that uses sound waves to display a two-dimensional image
of the breast, showing whether a lump is solid or fluid-filled (cystic).
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy. A minor procedure wherein fluid or cells are drawn out
of the lump through a small needle (aspirated).
- Core biopsy. A procedure wherein a larger piece of tissue is withdrawn from the lump
through a larger needle.
- Incisional biopsy. A surgical procedure wherein a piece of the lump is removed through
an cut (incision).
- Excisional biopsy. A surgical procedure wherein the entire lump is removed through an
Most insurance plans cover the costs of diagnosing and treating fibroadenomas.
Performed usually in outpatient settings, breast fibroadenomas are removed by lumpectomy
, or surgical
excision under local or general anesthesia. Sometimes lumps in younger women are not removed
but are monitored by self-examination, yearly doctor checkups, and mammograms. Surgery is
generally recommended for women over 30, and for lumps that are painful or enlarging.
Alternative treatments for breast fibroadenomas include a low-fat, high-fiber, vegetarian-type
diet; a reduction in caffeine
supplementation with evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis), flax oil, or fish oil and
E and C;
and the application of hot compresses to the breast. In addition, a focus on liver cleansing is
important to assist the body in conjugation and elimination of excess estrogens. Botanical
remedies can be useful in hormone balancing, as can acupuncture
homeopathy. Massaging the breasts with castor oil, straight or infused with herbs or essential
oils, can help fibroadenomas reduce and dissipate, as well as keep women in touch with changes
in their breast tissue.