During a clinical breast exam, your doctor will check both breasts for lumps and other problems. Some fibroadenomas are too small to feel, so they can only be discovered in imaging tests.
If you have a lump that can be felt (palpable), your doctor might recommend certain tests or procedures, depending on your age and the characteristics of the lump.
Tests to evaluate the breast lump
- Diagnostic mammography. Mammography uses X-rays to produce an image (mammogram) of suspicious areas in your breast tissue. A fibroadenoma might appear on a mammogram as a breast mass with smooth, round edges, distinct from surrounding breast tissue.
Breast ultrasound. This technology uses sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the breast. Your doctor might recommend a breast ultrasound in addition to a mammogram to evaluate a breast lump if you have dense breast tissue.
For women younger than 30 who have a breast lump, the doctor likely will order a breast ultrasound first to evaluate the lump.
If a mammogram indicates that you have a breast lump or other abnormality, a breast ultrasound might be used to further assess the lump. A breast ultrasound can help your doctor determine whether a breast lump is solid or filled with fluid. A solid mass is more likely a fibroadenoma; a fluid-filled mass is more likely a cyst.
Procedures to evaluate the breast lump
- Fine-needle aspiration. Through a thin needle inserted into your breast, your doctor attempts to withdraw the contents of the breast lump. If fluid comes out, the lump is likely a cyst.
- Core needle biopsy. A radiologist with guidance from an ultrasound usually performs this procedure. The doctor uses a needle to collect tissue samples from the lump, which go to a lab for analysis.