Breast cancer

Updated 13 November 2017

Fibroadenoma - treatment and diagnosis

How does a doctor diagnose a fibroadenoma, what is the treatment and what usually happens to these lumps?

Fibroadenoma usually occur as a painless lump in young women. They are uncommon after the age of 40. They rarely get larger than 2 cm and tend to get smaller over time. They do not become cancerous. It is very important to make sure a lump is definitely a fibroadenoma.

How do you diagnosis a fibroadenoma?

Diagnosis is based on the ‘triple test’

The triple test is:

  • The clinical assessment: a fibroadenoma usually feels very mobile but is firm. It can be freely moved over the muscle and can be moved under the skin. It is not usually painful but may be slightly tender if it is pushed hard.
  • The imaging of the lump. Ultrasound of the breast is often better than mammography in young women as the breasts are denser so are not able to be compressed as easily as in an older women. The appearance of a fibroadenoma on ultrasound is that of a solid lump with a regular outline. Mammogram may show a dense mass that is smooth in outline.
  • Assessment of the cells or tissue: there is a typical appearance of a fibroadenoma under the microscope.

If all of the tests above suggest that the lump is a fibroadenoma and not a cancer, then it is likely to be that. If even one of the tests suggests that it is a cancerous lump then the lump should be removed.

What is the treatment for fibroadenoma?

If the doctor is certain of the diagnosis, it is safe to leave the lump.

If the lump ever gets bigger, you should go back to your doctor and consider having the lump removed even if all the tests say it is not a cancer.

What is the normal course of fibroadenomas?

They usually get smaller with time. If at any time they don’t, a medical opinion must be sought.


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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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