In my last post I shared how I found out that I have a… say it with me… fibro-ade-noma, and mentioned that they are very common, especially in younger women.
That’s not very reassuring, I know. It took me some time, many frantic Whatsapp messages to my doctor, and more late night Google searches than I’d like to admit, to wrap my head around it.
So I’ve asked my OB/GYN, Dr Jordan Hardie, to help me explain it to you. (He really knows about breasts. You should believe what he says).
“A fibroadenoma is a benign mass (growth) that develops in the breast most commonly during the reproductive age group,” Dr Hardie says. “These masses tend to be painless, well-defined and mobile, so if you touch it with your finger it will move a little, but it won’t hurt.”
He notes that fibroadenomas pretty common. In fact, they are the most common type of breast of lumps. He says they are most frequently found in young women who have not yet gone through menopause.
“The are very common in women of child bearing age,” he says. “The exact cause of fibroadenomas is not yet known, but researchers suspect that they might be related to reproductive hormones. There is an association with an increase in size of fibroadenomas during pregnancy and lactation.”
But no need to be alarmed about pregnancy and breastfeeding, though, he says. While you may be more likely to notice a lump during or after this period, breastfeeding can actually reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
Dr Hardie says that simple fibroadenomas do not increase your risk of developing breast cancer. “In very rare cases, complex fibroadenomas can progress overtime, but the risk of a fibroadenoma becoming cancerous is very low,” he adds.
And to ensure this risk remains low, doctors like Dr Hardie like to keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not changing.
“Fibroadenomas are usually managed conservatively,” he explains. “So we’ll do routine follow-ups at your regular doctor visit, while periodically imaging (ultrasound) to monitor the size. In some cases we may do a biopsy to confirm that they are indeed fibroadenomas.”
Sometimes these masses turn out to be other common benign lumps such as cysts, galactoceles (milk retention cysts) and breast abscesses, he says. And sometimes, unfortunately, breast lumps turn out to be cancer-related.
“And that’s why we need to keep checking them out,” he says. “Even if your lump turns out to be malignant, it can be treated, and the earlier we catch it the better your chances for a good outcome. Early detection saves lives.”