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  • Fibroepithelial Neoplasms

    Neoplasm” literally means “new growth”—a fibroepithelial neoplasm is a growth comprised of fibrous and epithelial tissue.

    They are most often found in the breast or ovary; they can sometimes occur in the tissue of the male breast or testes.

    Three common types of this mass are a phyllodes tumor of the breast, fibroadenoma of the breast, and the Brenner tumor of the ovary.

    Signs & Symptoms

    Signs and symptoms can vary from patient to patient depending on the type of tumor.

    For the phyllodes tumor, the most obvious sign is a large, noticeable mass in the affected area that a doctor may detect when performing a breast exam. These masses can grow very rapidly (even in the benign stage), but are usually painless. These tumors have malignant properties, so they should be examined and treated immediately.

    Fibroadenomas are usually single lumps, but a small percentage of women develop a number of lumps in both breasts. These masses are characterized by:

    • Easily moveable under the skin
    • Firm
    • Painless
    • Rubbery/flexible
    • Brenner tumors are largely asymptomatic, although some women experience postmenopausal bleeding.

    Diagnosis & Treatment

    A phyllodes tumor is often mistaken for a fibroadenoma. The key difference between the two is that the phyllodes tumor often occurs in women in their 40’s; fibroadenomas typically appear in women in their 30’s. Both types of tumors are similar in appearance and texture, but the phyllodes tumor is found much less rarely.

    Approximately 60 to 70 percent of phyllodes tumors are benign. A phyllodes tumor can be diagnosed through a number of tests: physical exam, ultrasound, MRI, and biopsy are the most frequently prescribed exams.

    A phyllodes tumor is normally treated through excision, as chemotherapy and radiation have both been found to be ineffective. Some women opt for a full mastectomy to ensure the tumor is removed completely.

    Fibroadenomas are diagnosed through a breast ultrasound or mammogram. A biopsy is commonly prescribed to make a definitive cancer diagnosis. Younger women may not need a biopsy, as the lump sometimes goes away on its own or does not change in size.

    If the mass is definitely a fibroadenoma, it will likely not need to be removed. The patient’s physician will typically observe the mass and conduct periodic ultrasounds or mammograms to ensure it has not changed in size or become malignant.

    Brenner tumors can be diagnosed by a number of tests, among them a CT or CAT scan, ultrasound, or biopsy for a definitive diagnosis. These tumors usually grow very slowly and can take years to diagnose—if a physician suspects this type of tumor is present, he may observe it to see if it changes in size or texture. If it is determined to be a Brenner tumor, the physician will likely remove the mass completely.


    A patient’s outlook depends on the size, locations, and stages of the respective tumors. Women with fibroadenomas run a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life. Phyllodes tumors may recur, either in the original location or in surrounding tissue if the woman had a mastectomy.

    These types of tumors are very rare, so physicians explore possible treatment options with patients on an individual basis. Patients with Brenner tumors usually have an excellent prognosis, even those with a malignant form of the disease. Although rare, this form of cancer is usually highly treatable.