Phyllodes tumor is a rare breast tumor, which can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (harmless). This type of tumor occurs in the connective tissue of your breast and it is often referred to as a “sarcoma”.
Phyllodes tumors only make up less than 1% of all breast cancers. Even though the tumor may be harmless, it is still considered to be breast cancer as there is a risk that it could be cancerous in the future.
Phyllodes tumor will feel like a smooth-sided, firm and bumpy lump in your breast. The skin over the tumor may also become red in color and warm to the touch. The breast tumor can grow quickly and there is a high possibility that the lump will become much bigger in just a few weeks.
Women who are premenopausal are often diagnosed with Phyllodes tumor, however it is very rare for adolescent girls to develop this type of breast tumor.
On a mammogram, a Phyllodes tumor will usually have a well-defined edge. This type of breast tumor is not normally found near microcalcifications and an open biopsy is usually used to provide a sample of cells that can then result in a proper diagnosis of a Phyllodes tumor.
Research has found that MRIs have provided the most accurate image of these tumors and this has therefore helped surgeons to plan their operations. The breast MRI has therefore been found to be more effective than a mammogram or ultrasound.
Most breast cancers are usually classified as stages 1 to 4, however this is not the case with Phyllodes tumor. After a surgical biopsy has been performed, the pathologist will study the cells using a microscope. Two characteristics will then be observed: the speed at which the cells are dividing and the number of cells which are irregular in shape that present in the tissue sample. Following this the tumor will then be classed as either harmless, malignant or borderline.
Surgery is normally the standard method of treatment in order to remove a Phyllodes tumor. This type of tumor does not respond well to chemotherapy, radiation or hormonal therapies. If the tumor is small and harmless then it can be removed with a lumpectomy. Malignant tumors are removed through a wide local excision (WLE) or mastectomy which aims to remove as much of the affected tissue as possible.