Fibroadenoma are firm and solid breast lumps which are seen mostly in young women, often developing during puberty. Fibroadenoma can also develop in men, however this is not very common. Fibroadenoma usually reach a size of 1-3 cm (0,4 – 1,2 inches). Much larger nodules are possible and can reach sizes of more than 5 cm (2 inches). Fibroadenoma are no reason for concern as they are harmless benign structures. In most cases they do not even require treatment. Only when they are causing pain or discomfort, treatment options should be considered.
How common are fibroadenoma?
Fibroadenoma are most commonly seen in women between the ages of 14-35 years, over 35 they are less common. Nevertheless, these benign breast lumps are the most common nodules found in women: It is estimated that 10% of all women will develop fibroadenoma at some point during their lives.
What causes fibroadenoma?
Fibroadenoma develop when fibrous and glandular connective tissue of the breast start to grow more rapidly than usual, consequently building up a lump of tissue within the breast.
The exact causes for fibroadenoma development are not fully understood yet. However, observations suggest that the hormone estrogen and a high sensitivity of the breast tissue to the hormone, play a relevant role in the likelihood of developing fibroadenoma.
It has been observed that fibroadenoma tend to increase in size during pregnancy and shrink during menopause, which strengthens the believe that hormonal factors are a major influencer. Menstrual cycles and breastfeeding, both of which cause hormonal fluctuations, can impact the growth of fibroadenoma. Furthermore, links between taking the birth control pill prior to the age of 20 and a higher risk of developing fibroadenoma have been observed.
What to do when you have a fibroadenoma?
Despite the low risk of breast lumps being, or becoming, malignant, it is important to address any lumps that have developed with a specialized physician. Only diagnostic tools such as ultrasound, mammography and biopsy can provide clarity about the real nature of the nodule. If breast cancer is recognized early, curing the disease is very likely. For example, 5-year survival rates of 96% have been reported for early treatments of breast cancer with a size of less than 2.5cm (1 inch).