All breast fibroadenomas don’t require surgery

Breast fibroadenomas are the most common cause of breast lumps and they are commonly seen between 15-30 years of age group. We usually see a lot of anxious women presenting to the Breast Centre at CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon with this complaint and all of them have two common questions:

  • can it turn into breast cancer?
  • does it require surgery?

I will address these two questions in the text below but before that I would just like to give you some information regarding breast fibroadenomas.

Clinical presentation  – Breast fibroadenomas usually present as painless (non painful) breast lumps which keep shifting their position within the breast. These lumps can remain the same size for long periods of time but sometimes they can present with pain, rapid increase in size. Approximately 10% women can have multiple fibroadenomas [read about the lady with 39 fibroadenomas in both breasts].

There is no known cause for fibroadenomas and no well defined risk factors.

On examination, these lumps are usually firm in consistency and mobile, which is why jokingly they are also known as a ‘breast mouse’.

Diagnosis of a fibroadenoma can be made out on an ultrasound of the breast (which is the preferred imaging technique in patients less than 40 years of age). If a mammogram is done, you can see a ‘popcorn appearance‘ of the lesion.

 

Calcified Fibroadenoma

Majority of the fibroadenomas can be clearly made out on an ultrasound but if a lesion is showing some atypical changes, then a tru-cut biopsy/ FNAC (needle test) is recommended to confirm the diagnosis. This is also indicated in patients with a family history of breast cancer.

Coming back to the two questions which all patients with breast fibroadenomas have running through their mind during their visit to a breast surgeon:

  • Can fibroadenomas turn into breast cancer?  —  Multiple studies have shown that the risk of a fibroadenoma changing into breast cancer is negligible (less than 2%). It is usually more in patients who have atypical fibroadenomas or an existing family history of breast cancer. Patients with a family history of breast cancer should not ignore these breast lumps and should get a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Do all fibroadenomas require surgery? —- Well, not all of these breast lumps require surgery. There are certain indications to surgically remove these lumps:
  1. If the fibroadenoma is more than 5 cm in size. Such a fibroadenoma is known as a ‘giant breast fibroadenoma’.
  2. If there is a family history of breast cancer. In such cases, it is advisable to remove the lump.
  3. If there is rapid increase in size of the lump or it is associated with breast pain which is not getting controlled with medicines.

Surgical removal for fibroadenomas is usually a minor surgery which is done as a day care procedure. The incision for this surgery is usually made around the areola (peri-areolar) as this incision heals with minimal scarring. Sometimes the incision can be made in the skin fold under the breast (infra-mammary crease). Some patients can candidates for scar-less fibroadenoma surgery, in which the lump is removed via a 3-4 mm incision using a special machine.

Peri-areolar incision – scar is hardly visbile after a month

Those patients who are not candidate for surgical excision are asked to follow-up at regular intervals, usually 6 months to 1 year. In addition to this, they are asked to monitor the size of the lump. In case there is a rapid increase in size of the fibroadenoma, they are asked to return immediately. Unfortunately, there is no credible medical management of fibroadenomas.

 

Information provided by:

Dr. Rohan Khandelwal

Breast Cancer Surgeon in Gurgaon

CK Birla Hospital

Dr. Rohan Khandelwal also performs scar-less fibroadenoma surgery at CK Birla Hospital

Shocking case – Mastectomy done for an 11 yr old girl!!

Every day brings a new surprise in the life of a doctor but there are some cases which just make you feel angry & helpless and today’s case was exactly the same. Our receptionist had fixed an appointment and when she told me that it is for a 11 year old girl, I probably thought that she is going to turn out be a case of juvenile hypertrophy (enlargement) of the breast but what I saw when I examined the patient left me in a state of shock.

This sweet looking 11 year old kid walked in with her parents and they started telling me the history that she underwent a surgery of the right breast to remove a benign lesion (fibroadenoma) 2 months back and they came to our unit because the girl had noticed another lesion on the left side. Breast surgery at 11 years is usually not recommended as it hampers with the development of the breast during puberty and I immediately knew that something will not be right when I examine the patient. Examination of the girl turned out to be quite shocking. The surgeon (who was actually a gynecologist in a rural set-up) removed not only the lump but also the entire breast tissue on the right side leaving behind just a long scar on the chest (image). It took me a couple of minutes to get in terms with what I was seeing and multiple thoughts started running through my head after that:

IMG_20140725_115525

1. My initial reaction was that of anger towards the doctor who had done such a surgery without properly examining the patient or documenting it. Her notes before surgery mentioned no examination findings and the only thing written was ”work-up for surgery”. She had fortunately not examined the other breast, which also had a small lump and I am sure had she examined it, she would have done the same thing on the left side as well.

2. I felt sad for the girl & her parents very well knowing that there is going to be no development of the breast of the right side and the patient will probably have to go for an implant later on in her life.

3. This case reinforced the fact that breast surgery needs to come up as a dedicated branch in India, in order to prevent such cases. Also more awareness needs to be created among people regarding this branch and the fact that it does not deal with only breast cancer. Benign breast diseases are often ignored by patients and they usually approach local doctors for their treatment.

4. This case also reinforced the point regarding proper notes & documentation in all patients. This patient can easily take the doctor who did such a surgery to court and that doctor will have nothing in her defense

5. This case was a real eye opener with regards to the lack of knowledge which general practitioners/ general surgeons / gynecologists have regarding breast disorders and this needs to be addressed by proper refresher courses for these doctors.

 

39 fibroadenomas removed using just two incisions!!

Yesterday, we performed a marathon fibroadenoma surgery, where we removed 39 fibroadenomas from both the breasts (19 from the right breast and 20 from the left) just by making one incision in each breast. We used a crescent incision in both the breasts and comfortably removed fibroadenomas measuring as big as 5-6 cms through that incision. The entire procedure lasted 2 hours and the patient was discharged the same day.

Although the smaller fibroadenomas could have been left behind (because they are not malignant) but the patient was very apprehensive about them and wanted all of them removed. The importance of the single incision (periareolar crescent) is that it makes the end cosmetic result quite good. I am sharing some intra-operative pictures in this post. Will update the post-operative and follow-up pictures soon.

Marking of the crescent incision.

Marking of the crescent incision.

 Fibroadenomas marked along with the incision. Smaller lesions were not marked.


Fibroadenomas marked along with the incision. Smaller lesions were not marked.

 

6x7 cm fibroadenoma removed through the incision

6×7 cm fibroadenoma removed through the incision

 

5x5 cm lesion removed through the left breast

5×5 cm lesion removed through the left breast

 

Starting the closure. Will share the post-op and follow up pictures soon

Starting the closure. Will share the post-op and follow up pictures soon