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Ask Dr. Craig!: Fibroadenoma Or Breast Cancer?



BellaNaija is pleased to announce a new column for our special readers – ‘Ask Dr. Craig!Dr. Craig is a BellaNaija columnist and one of the doctors who writes for BN Doctors’ Lounge {Get familiar here}. The idea behind ‘Ask Dr. Craig!’ is for BN readers to get quick sharp answers to niggling medical issues that they have. This does not in anyway mean that readers should not go to their doctors. However, sometimes you just need a human face to give answers to those fast, burning medical concerns our readers have.

Send your questions for Dr. Craig to features(at)bellanaija(dot)com stating your full name and where you are writing from. (Your name will never be published) The editor reserves the right to edit submissions for content brevity and clarity. We regret that we cannot provide individual answers to questions sent in and cannot state at which exact date answers would be published.
We hope that people will find help by reading and sharing. We look forward to reading your emails and tweets with questions for Dr. Craig.


Dear Dr. Craig,

I am a 27 year old lady and I have had two breast operations after finding lumps. The first was in 2005 when I was nineteen and the other one was last year, and this time in both breasts. Biopsy results in the two instances showed that the lumps were fibroadenomas.

Do I stand a higher risk of getting breast cancer in future as a result of these lumps?

The doctor I saw advised me to get married as soon as possible. Is there any link between fibroadenomas and being single?

Also, in the last few months I have been having severe pains in my right breast. What can this possibly mean? I am so scared of going to the hospital again.

Single-girl. Ikeja, Lagos.


Dear Single-girl,

First of all, to answer your last question, allow me point you to a series I ran here on Bella Naija a few months ago on breast health. A lot of the questions about lumps, how to do a self breast examination and what causes breast pain are thoroughly discussed here. {Pink October}
Breast pain can be a pointer to any one of a long list of conditions and it is important that you please see a physician.

So do women who have had a fibroadenoma stand a higher risk of developing cancer later on in life? The answer is ‘not really’. To understand whether there is a link between fibroadenomas and breast cancer, we must first understand how either condition comes about.

Breasts are made up of lobules (milk-producing glands) and ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple), which are surrounded by glandular, fibrous supporting tissue and fatty tissue. Fibroadenomas are formed when the supporting structure of the breast (connective tissue) and ducts grow over the lobule and form a solid lump.
It is believed that this tendency for the supporting tissue to form lumps is caused by the fluctuating levels of hormones in a woman’s body during her monthly cycle. Early in the cycle the female sex hormones are at a resting level and the breasts are also at their resting size. As the cycle progresses the body produces more and more sex hormones and these cause the breast to remodel and change in shape and size. As the cycle ends the hormonal levels drop off to normal and the breast also returns to its normal size. This increase and decrease and increase and decrease happens over and over again over many months and years and in some women who are particularly susceptible, this consistent modelling and remodelling of the breast tissue is what leads to the lump formation.

There are two broad categories of fibroadenomas. Simple Fibroadenomas are mainly just connective tissue cells that clump together to form a lump in the breast while in Complex Fibroadenomas certain factors may cause the lump to become calcified or have other different kinds of cells in them apart from connective tissue and may have cysts in their centre.

On the other hand, for breast cancer to develop in any woman there must be cell damage and DNA mutation. This cell damage can be as a result of radiation, or foods or chemicals or even hormones. Every cell has a life span. It stays alive for a specified period of time after which it must die. Before it dies it will divide into daughter cells who will take over its function. So for example, before a cell in your eye dies, it would have made daughter cells who will continue its ‘seeing’ function after it is gone. When a cell gets damaged it can no longer carry out its intended function and so it is removed by the body’s ‘police’ so as to keep the whole tissue healthy and working at optimal level. Sometimes however a damaged cell may evade the body’s police and can go undetected, especially in tissues where there is a very rapid turnover of cells. These damaged cells can then go ahead and form daughter cells who go ahead and form other daughter cells. The resulting mass of abnormal cells is called a cancer. (Please note that cancer formation is a complex multi-layered process. I have over simplified here for the purpose of comparison only)

From the above it is easy to see that by and large, there is NO connection between a fibroadenoma and breast cancer per sė and almost all women with a simple fibroadenoma will NOT progress to have breast cancer.

That said however, researchers have found that even though the processes that cause a fibroadenoma to form is significantly different from those that cause cancer, there may be a very small increase in the chance of developing cancer in women who have had complex fibroadenoma. This is because the conditions that may allow a simple fibroadenoma progress to a complex one are similar to those that can encourage damaged cell proliferation. It is important to reiterate that the process of cancer formation is complex and multifactorial and this similarity is only one of many steps that can lead to possible cancer formation.

As to getting married as soon as you can, I do not see how this would make any difference. Fibroadenomas are hormone dependent and the only realistic way to reduce the likelihood of them occurring is to reduce the hormonal levels. This is why as a woman gets older and as her hormonal levels begin to drop, the number of fibroadenomas also reduce in equal proportion. Studies have shown that the peak age of patients who have fibroadenomas is 30 after which the numbers begin a steady decline. So if you are not in a serious and committed relationship, please don’t rush out to marry the next guy that says hello. Doctors Orders!

All the best with everything

Warm regards,
Dr. Craig

***Disclaimer: This column is written for patient education. It is not intended to diagnose or prescribe treatment and does not replace the advice of your physician. It in no means attempts to cover the full medical scope of this condition.


  1. Ms Lurve

    July 9, 2014 at 10:42 am


  2. uju

    July 9, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Doctor Craig, pls i’d love to know if u’re married! if not I will be very happy, cos I’ve fallen in love with u! pls reply me

    • Enq

      July 9, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      loool….BN can tempt single gehs sha!

    • Mrs Craig

      July 9, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      As innnnn! Physician, Pastor, Photographer, Poet and Playwright.. chei! o tun wa ni that sexy smile! Marry me!!! lol


    July 9, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Interesting new segment. This particular one is helpful. Having Fibroadenoma can be scary and its good to know it doesn’t always lead to breast cancer 🙂

  4. Idak

    July 9, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Dr. Craig, when are you available to do free Breast examination for the ladies of BN,as your contribution to the early detection of breast and possibly benign lumps.
    BN can help organize it as their contribution to improved health services in our country 🙂

    • Jane Public

      July 9, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Idak, you are not well I swear. Ladies onise, face your work o. Stop ogling my friend’s brother. Ah Ah. If you want his number, what is the price you are willing to pay. Highest bidder things!!!!

    • Idak

      July 9, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      your friend’s brother? Na from clap hand dem dey start dance o!

  5. portia

    July 9, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Chai,fine fine dr… #dreamyeyes

  6. Temi

    July 9, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Love you doctor craig.

  7. Blossom

    July 9, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Dr Craig, please come and help me check my breasts. Thanks.

  8. dup

    July 9, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Ha we women, we are soooo silly…………..getting carried away by a fine face, na the issue be that! ! ! Please this is supposed to be serious joooor, so ladies only serious comments (comments that are strictly related to the above mentioned topic) plssssssss. thanks.

  9. Aibee

    July 9, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Idak and Blossom, you both are not serious oh, lol! Check which breasts na? Abeg leave Dr. Craig to face Medicine and Ministry, shikena

    Thanks Dr. Craig for this Article, particularly the simplification of cancer. Meanwhile, BN, y’all are supposed to insert the link to the October ’13 Articles by Dr. Craig on Breast Health. That’s why he wrote in that first paragraph “insert link to pink October please”.

  10. Yinkz

    July 9, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Dear Dr Craig,

    Thank you for this piece. I am a nursing mother of a 6 months plus healthy baby. Recently say for 3 weeks plus, nursing has painful and i thought it was my baby biting me. On taking a closer look at my nipples, I realised i had cracks and part of my areola had flakes which are peelable (you know the type of liquid that oozes from injury that later form flakes when they become dry).

    At my last clinical appointment, i was unable to see the doctor but the nurse that crossed examined me said it was my baby cracking my breast but i refuse to believe this as it is not a bite and my baby is not a new born. I also sometimes have searing pains on random occasion inside my breast when I am not nursing. I have consulted Dr. Google but I need a professional opinion. I will be glad if you can be of help. Thank you

    • sarah

      July 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      You need to use a moisturiser on you nipples after each feed to help with the cracking, lanolin is good or vaseline. The pain or cramping you get in your breast is because your breast is full with milk, it’s called ‘let down’.

    • Dr. Craig

      July 9, 2014 at 11:32 pm

      The chaffing of the nipple areola complex as a result of suckling is a common complaint. The most common cause is improper attachment of the baby to the breast. Allow your breasts to air dry before putting back your bra to prevent moisture build up, apply natural oils if it feels dry and flaky and wear light cotton bras to encourage air circulation.
      Sore and tender breasts during breastfeeding are often due to engorgement. Try and empty one breast before moving to the next one when feeding and endeavour to express what milk is left to prevent engorgement.

  11. anonymous

    July 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Hi Dr Craig,i have had milk come out of my breast even though I’m not pregnant n have not been.Doc says its high breast prolactin and its made my breast become quite bigger. i have used all his prescribed drugs,now it brings about unimaginable pain d 2weeks around d cycle.Apparently now e has said no suckling of my nipples,because it means I’m disturbing the treatment which i understand now. Question is even though i have sorta stopped d sucking(yea sorta) the pain is still there.Is this normal bcos I’m tired of those 3 months drugs and don’t wanna use them again.Some docs say there is no cure is that true? Cos that means i can’t get suckled forever cos now i attribute it 2 pain and that is affecting my sex-life…Awaiting your response,thank you Dr Craig

    • Idak

      July 9, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Please forgive me for laughing at your pain but please keep away from suckling,especially suckling by an adult 🙂
      Get well soon.

    • Dr. Craig

      July 9, 2014 at 11:14 pm

      I’m sorry Anonymous but I don’t quite understand your question. Please read the article on nipple discharge from the Pink October series. You will see that clear discharge from the breasts on sexual stimulation is quite normal. Some women will produce more than others.
      If the pain is always around the time of your period then perhaps you have cyclical mastalgia as well as a very active secretory reflex in your nipples.

  12. ..just saying

    July 9, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Err…Is that picture a male pout? Vain much.

  13. funke

    July 9, 2014 at 11:56 am

    hi Dr, she talked about pain on her left breast , you didn’t ans that part. i have those pains too and its been on for five weeks , 1st i thought it was cos of my period , but my period has come and gone and its still there. but not as much as it used to be. although, i cant find any lump in my left breast but am dead scared and worried. all the articles have read says it shouldn’t be for more than 3weeks at most.

  14. Jane Public

    July 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Idak, you are not well I swear. Ladies onise, face your work o. Stop ogling my friend’s brother. Ah Ah. If you want his number, what is the price you are willing to pay. Highest bidder things!!!!

  15. pipi

    July 9, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    After having two lumps removed, i feel the pain of this lady… most of the time i dont even want to touch my breast because of fear. with each removal the smaller my breast become….

  16. c'est moi

    July 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Hi Yinkz. Firstly, i think you should see a doctor as this would keep your mind at rest but I can assure you that it is 100percent #normal to have scale-like skin on the areola and cracked nipples while breastfeeding. The pain is mostly as a result of clogged ducts so it’ll help if you do not lie down to breastfeed but sit up so that gravity can help the flow and the flow of milk is smoother. There is no need for concern and it has nothing to do with whether or not your child is healthy, it is the suckling and saliva on the skin of the areola that causes the crack and scales. It’ll all clear and return to normal when you stop breastfeeding. you can apply vaseline on your areola to keep it moist whilst your baby isn’t suckling. As for the pain, a change in posture will help. hope this helps, don’t be too worried. still see your doctor just to be at peace. goodluck

    p.s- normal in this context means it is skin dependant. not every one has it but most people do. I for example had a scales on my areola but no cracked nipples and my areola are presently as good as new

  17. Created Woman

    July 9, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Fine Dokinta

  18. slice

    July 9, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    i think the subtle advice the person was giving was to get pregnant fast and just assuming she’d do that once she gets married. Is there a link between pregnancy and fibroadenoma. I know it can worsen the symptoms, but is there a reason to get pregnant sooner rather than later if you have fibro….

  19. NaijaPikin

    July 9, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Funke he addressed it. He said see a physician ASAP.

  20. Berry Dakara

    July 9, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Very insightful and informative article. Thanks for sharing. I’ll check out the Pink October series.

    @ BN, is it okay if I repost one or two of the Pink October posts on my monthly self breast check reminder blog posts? Of course, it’ll be linked back to you as always.

  21. Deep Soul

    July 9, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I had fibroadenoma on both breasts. when I was still a teenager and it stayed with me for about 3 or 4 years when I was 20 and I had it surgically removed. The lumps were tested and were found to be benign.

    Two years later, it reappeared on both breasts. I went back to the doctor and he said I had “naturally lumpy breasts” and told me not to bother so much. But I was a little bothered.

    About 2 years after that, I saw another doctor who advised me to get married and have children, according to him, breastfeeding reduces the incidence of fibroadenoma and even eliminates it where it already exists.

    About a year after this, I was married. Not because of what the doctor said oh! Na so e carry happen. Anyways, I had my baby and exclusively breastfed her for 6 months and once in a while, I examine my breasts. I found out that while the lumps have not completely disappeared, they have GREATLY reduced in size and number… maybe the doc was right after all about breastfeeding enabling me exercise my breast tissues..Regardless, I plan to see a doctor this month just for a check-up as I am not at all keen on going through another lumpectomy.

    • Dr. Craig

      July 9, 2014 at 11:04 pm

      On the contrary Deep soul, pregnancy will make fibroadenomas larger because hormonal levels are greatly increased. However, because the breasts as a whole also get larger and lumpier during pregnancy and bresrfeeding, the fibriadenoma tends to blend into the substance of the breast and becomes almost impossible to feel.
      If you are in your late twenties or early thirties it is more likely that your hormones have leveled off and are no longer causing fibroadenomas to develop in your breasts.

  22. chizzy

    July 10, 2014 at 9:46 am

    ohhh Dr Craig Ur smile is Charmin….

  23. yassbeetch

    July 10, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I don’t get this need for free medical advice by pple who have no qualms spending on asoebi, hennessy, louboutin etc. Health is wealth, either u invest in it or live with ur ailment’s.

  24. Deep Soul

    July 10, 2014 at 11:40 am

    @Yassbeetch: Nobody comes to Bellanaija seeking for free medical advice. However, seeing as there’s a doctor here, it never hurts to get a different opinion. And what is your basis for the very faulty assumption that we all buy asoebi, hennessy and louboutins??? If you have nothing constructive to add, please move along.

    @Dr. Craig: Your explanation is also plausible. I just turned 27. I do hope that the hormones have indeed leveled off!

  25. abass adedolapo

    March 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Hii Dr Craig,
    I had a lump removed on my left breast when I was 16 years old, only to find out that it came back when I was 20 and I had it removed again. Now am 25 and I found 2 lumps on my right breast this time. I did a fine needle test and I was told it was fibroadenoma and that it should go with time. I went for a breast scan last week and found out that I have a small lump on my left breast again. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. Am so scared cos the doctor told me I may be at risk. Have been so depressed cos I dont wanna go through any operation again.

  26. Aakriti

    April 2, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    I am 23yr old and recently found that I m having fibroadenoma and bottom of my right breast. I am about to get married. Can I have a normal sex life in future , I mean can I have sex without any trouble? And can I have babies in future and breastfeed them? I m very tensed. Plz reply….

  27. Dr. Sowmyarani C N

    August 11, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Dear Craig!!! I loved the explanation about Fibroadenoma. It releaved me from tension and fear as i had fibroadenomas. Thanks a lot lot lot….. for very clear description.

  28. Loveth

    November 25, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I’m 24 years, for the past 3 years now av noticed fibroademona on my right breast, though it’s not painful, please is it necessary I get it removed, if Yes which hospital is safer in Lagos to get it removed?

  29. Loveth

    November 25, 2017 at 11:22 am

    ’m 24 years, for the past 3 years now av noticed fibroademona on my right breast, though it’s not painful, please is it necessary I get it removed, if Yes which hospital is safer in Lagos to get it removed?

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