Fibroadenomas are noncancerous breast tumors that usually don’t require treatment. Phyllodes tumors may or may not be cancerous and generally require surgery.

young person having a breast ultrasound-1Share on Pinterest
Anchiy/Getty Images

Fibroadenomas are common among young women and adolescents. Experts believe they occur from your breast tissue’s oversensitivity to the hormone estrogen, although they’re still debating the exact cause.

Phyllodes tumors are relatively rare tumors that develop in your breasts’ connective tissue. Healthcare professionals classify these tumors as:

  • benign, meaning noncancerous
  • borderline, meaning they share features of cancerous and noncancerous tumors
  • malignant, meaning cancerous

This article compares the similarities and differences between these two types of breast tumors.

Learn more about phyllodes tumors and fibroadenomas.

Language Matters

You’ll notice we use the binary terms “women” and “men” in this article. While we realize these terms may not match your gender experience, they are the terms used by the researchers whose data was cited. We try to be as specific as possible when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data for or may not have had participants who are transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

Was this helpful?

Fibroadenomas tend to develop at younger ages than phyllodes tumors. Healthcare professionals often diagnose fibroadenomas in women of reproductive ages — 14–40 years old, and they’re less common among postmenopausal women.

How common are they?

Fibroadenomas are more common than phyllodes tumors. Some experts think that as many as 10% of the world’s female population will develop fibroadenoma at least once in their lifetime. Phyllodes tumors make up less than 1% of all breast tumors.

Are they cancer?

Phyllodes tumors may be cancerous, whereas fibroadenomas are benign, meaning noncancerous. About 60–75% of phyllodes tumors are also benign.


Fibroadenomas usually don’t need treatment because they may go away by themselves. However, healthcare professionals must always remove phyllodes tumors since they tend to grow quickly even if they aren’t cancerous.


Health professionals believe that increased breast tissue sensitivity to estrogen may cause fibroadenomas. They’re still debating the exact cause.

Phyllodes tumors occur frequently in people with Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a rare inheritable cancer syndrome. Although they’re rare in men, research has linked phyllodes tumors with breast enlargement (gynecomastia), suggesting that hormonal factors may play a role in the development of these cancers.

Some researchers think that phyllodes tumors may develop from cell production in your skin due to several factors:

Phyllodes tumorsFibroadenomas
Age of diagnosisusually middle agereproductive age
Epidemiologyabout 0.3–0.9% of breast tumorsabout 10% of females worldwide
Symptoms• painless
• mobile
• rapidly growing with a rubbery consistency
• often around 4–7 cm (1.6–2.8 in)
• bloody nipple discharge
• nipple retraction
• swollen lymph nodes in your armpits
• smooth
• firm
• solid
• move around easily and painlessly when touched
• smaller than 2 cm (0.8 in) in size
Canceroustreatment often not necessaryno
Treatmentalmost always surgery, sometimes with radiation therapytreatment often not necessary

Phyllodes tumors and fibroadenomas can be difficult to tell apart on a mammogram or imaging. Both tumors often start as painless masses on one side of the connective tissue in your breast.

Both types of tumors can be benign and may occur in females of reproductive ages, although phyllodes tumors usually develop later.

You might first notice a phyllodes tumor or fibroadenoma during a breast self-exam. Tests doctors use to differentiate the tumor from other types of tumors include:

  • a mammogram, an X-ray of your breast
  • an ultrasound
  • MRI
  • a biopsy, a small tissue sample a healthcare professional takes with a needle

Doctors almost always recommend surgery to remove phyllodes tumors even if they aren’t cancerous since they can grow large and compress tissue in your breast.

Surgery options include a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy to remove your tumor and a larger amount of your breast. A total mastectomy to remove your entire breast is another option.

Fibroadenomas usually don’t need treatment since they may shrink and disappear over time. However, large tumors compressing your breast tissue may require surgery.

The 10-year survival rate for phyllodes tumors is about 87%. Phyllodes tumors can reoccur even after surgical removal. Most reoccurrences happen within 2 years. Cancerous tumors generally have a less favorable outlook if they spread to distant areas.

Fibroadenomas usually don’t cause symptoms and eventually go away without treatment. They may link to a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

How can you tell if a tumor is phyllodes?

The only way to know for sure what type of breast tumor you have is by contacting your doctor so that you can receive the proper tests. Your doctors can use imaging and a biopsy to figure out what type of tumor you have.

What percentage of phyllodes tumors are malignant?

According to the American Cancer Society, only about 1 in 4 phyllode tumors are cancerous.

Should phyllodes tumor be removed?

Healthcare professionals almost always need to remove phyllodes tumors. Even noncancerous tumors tend to grow quickly and can compress healthy tissue.

What is the difference between a fibroadenoma and a tumor?

A tumor is an atypical tissue growth. Some tumors are cancerous, and some are noncancerous. Fibroadenoma is a noncancerous breast tumor.

Fibroadenomas and phyllodes tumors are two types of tumors that develop in breast tissue. Many people with fibroadenomas don’t require any treatment since these tumors usually go away by themselves without treatment.

It’s important to contact your doctor any time you notice a lump in your breast. The only way to know whether your tumor is cancerous is to receive testing. Breast cancer usually has a better outlook the earlier you receive treatment.