A fibroadenoma is a type of non-cancerous (benign) tumor that can develop in breast tissue. It contains a combination of connective and glandular tissues.
While such lumps aren’t cancerous, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them if you have a family history of breast cancer, or if the lump is large, painful, or interferes with your quality of life.
Learn what fibroadenoma removal entails, and what you can expect during the recovery process and beyond.
While most fibroadenomas don’t require removal, surgery may be recommended if your breast lump is large or painful. A personal or family history of breast cancer may also be a consideration in some cases.
A fibroadenoma may be removed via two different methods, depending on the size. The first is a traditional excision biopsy for large lumps, which removes the entire lump, along with some surrounding tissue.
This procedure is considered a major surgery that’s performed under general anesthesia. However, most people don’t require an overnight hospital stay, and may go home the same day of their surgery.
Before a lumpectomy, your doctor will assess your overall health history to determine possible risks. You’ll also need to stop taking blood-thinning medications and supplements prior to your procedure.
Vacuum-assisted excision biopsy
Smaller fibroadenomas may be removed with a procedure called a vacuum-assisted excision biopsy. This is an outpatient procedure that involves smaller incisions. The doctor then collects the fibroadenomas via a vacuum device, using an ultrasound to guide them.
Since this type of procedure isn’t as invasive, a healthcare professional will use a local anesthetic instead of general anesthesia. Stitches also aren’t required.
Another option for smaller fibroadenomas is a freezing technique called cryoablation. Rather than removing the lump, an incision is made and a gas is used to destroy fibroadenoma tissues.
The exact timeline for recovery from this surgery depends on how large the fibroadenoma is, as well as which removal method is used.
If your surgeon used traditional stitches, you’ll need to see them for removal about 1 week after your surgery. Depending on the extent of your surgery, you may consider taking time off work. You may need to take sponge baths until your stitches have been removed.
You may experience pain and discomfort for several days after a lumpectomy. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). In all, it can take up to a month to heal from this surgery.
Vacuum-assisted excision biopsy recovery
For a vacuum-assisted excision biopsy, you may experience pain and bruising for a few days. However, you should be able to resume your normal activities once you feel comfortable.
This type of removal process is less likely to affect the shape of your breast.
Since a lumpectomy is considered a major surgery, it’s important to understand the risks before electing to have this procedure. Call your doctor if you experience the following after surgery:
- increased pain
- bleeding that won’t stop
- signs of an infection, such as swelling and discharge
- poor wound healing
This type of surgery may also increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Depending on the size and location of the fibroadenoma, you may experience scarring after removal. Surgery may also impact the overall texture and shape of the affected breast, too. While not considered life-threatening complications, you still may wish to discuss these risks with your doctor.
In some cases, fibroadenoma removal could impact future mammograms. That’s because the possible scarring and breast structure changes can make such imaging tests more difficult to read.
If a biopsy of a lump on your breast is determined to be a fibroadenoma, this doesn’t automatically mean it needs to be removed. Your doctor may base their recommendation on the following factors:
- whether the lump is growing or changing, based on physical exams and imaging results
- whether the lump is painful or causes discomfort
- whether the lump has changed the overall shape of your breast
- your family history of breast cancer
- your age
A simplefibroadenoma is one that has a uniform shape under microscopic examination, and is usually between 1 and 3 centimeters in size. This type of lump rarely becomes cancerous. Also, some simple fibroadenomas may shrink naturally after menopause.
For simple fibroadenomas that aren’t causing any discomfort, your doctor may recommend a wait-and-see approach. This may also help prevent possible scarring and tissue damage from removal surgery.
Simple fibroadenomas may also grow larger during adolescence and pregnancy. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may also increase their size. However, once you get past these life stages, the lumps will likely decrease in size once more.
A complex fibroadenoma, on the other hand, may slightly increase your risk for breast cancer in the future. If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend removing this type of lump.
Some doctors also suggest removing lumps that are 2 to 3 cm or larger.
A diagnosis of a lump in the breast can be concerning, but a fibroadenoma isn’t cancerous. Depending on the size of the lump, you may not have to remove it right away. In some cases, the lump will shrink after menopause.
However, a doctor may recommend a fibroadenoma removal if the lump is large, or if you have a family history of breast cancer. Depending on the size, this may involve a traditional lumpectomy surgery, or perhaps a less invasive alternative.
Talk with a healthcare professional about all your options to treat fibroadenoma. If you’ve already had a removal procedure done, call your doctor if you’re experiencing any complications or changes to your breast.