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A fibroadenoma is a benign tumor found in the tissue of the breast. Fibroadenomas appear most commonly in younger women between the ages of 15-30, and they should always be evaluated by a doctor to ensure that they are properly identified. You may also hear fibroadenomas referred to as “breast lumps.” They are not inherently harmful, although they can grow large enough to restrict circulation in the breast or infringe upon a woman's freedom of movement, and they do not appear to increase the risk of breast cancer.
Most fibroadenomas are roughly spherical, and they contain both glandular and fibrous tissue. Upon palpation, a fibroadenoma feels sort of like a marble, and it will move freely in the breast because the tumor is not attached. Most appear behind the aureole of the breast, and they appear more often in the left breast than the right. An estimated one in 10 women will find a fibroadenoma in her breast at some point, with around one percent of women having multiple fibroadenomas.
Some studies suggest that the formation of fibroadenomas may be linked to estrogen. Teens on hormonal birth control appear to be more at risk, supporting this theory. However, the precise cause of fibroadenoma formation is not known. Studies have shown that women with fibroadenomas are more likely to develop breast cancer later in life, leading some people to falsely conclude that fibroadenomas cause breast cancer; instead, doctors suspect that the risks for fibroadenoma are similar to those of breast cancer, and that a fibroadenoma could be viewed as an early warning sign.
Fibroadenomas are often discovered during monthly breast self exams, or during clinical breast exams. Because a lump in the breast is a cause for concern until it can be identified, a doctor will typically use diagnostic tools to confirm that the lump is a fibroadenoma. These tools may include mammogramming and biopsy. Once the fibroadenoma has been identified, a decision about what to do with it can be made. It is generally safe to leave the tumor in the breast, checking regularly for size increases, and it can also be removed for comfort, aesthetic reasons, or out of any concerns which may arise.
When a fibroadenoma is removed in a lumpectomy, the procedure is generally fairly quick, and it is performed in an outpatient environment. Recovery times are typically brief; the patient may experience some pain and soreness for a few days, and she may be encouraged to rest and refrain from heavy exercise for the first few days of recovery. After a lumpectomy, women should continue to examine their breasts regularly and they should follow recommendations about the frequency of clinical breast exams.
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