Non-Cancerous Breast Conditions

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Phyllodes tumors

Phyllodes tumors (fill-odes or full-oh-deez; also spelled phylloides and pronounced full-oy-deez) are rare breast tumors that start in the connective (stromal) tissue. They are most common in women in their 30s and 40s, but women of any age can have them. Very rarely, phyllodes tumors can be cancer. (This happens in about 1 out of 10 of these tumors.)


The tumors are usually felt as a painless lump, but some may hurt. They may grow quickly and stretch the skin. They’re often hard to tell from fibroadenomas on imaging tests, or even with certain types of biopsies (mostly the kind of biopsy where a needle is used to remove a piece of tissue to check for cancer cells). Often the entire tumor needs to be removed to know for certain that it’s a phyllodes tumor that’s not cancer.


Surgery is the main treatment. Phyllodes tumors can sometimes come back in the same place if they’re removed without taking enough of the normal tissue around them. For this reason, they’re treated by taking out the tumor and at least a 1 cm (a little less than ½ inch) area of normal breast tissue around the tumor.

Phyllodes tumors that are cancer are treated by removing them along with a wider area of normal tissue, or by removing the entire breast (mastectomy). Malignant phyllodes tumors are different from the more common types of breast cancer. They do not respond to hormone therapy and are less likely than most breast cancers to respond to radiation therapy or the chemotherapy drugs normally used for breast cancer. Phyllodes tumors that have spread to distant areas are often treated more like sarcomas (soft-tissue cancers) than breast cancers.

Because these tumors can come back, close follow-up with frequent breast exams and imaging tests are usually recommended after treatment.

How do phyllodes tumors affect your risk for breast cancer?

Having a phyllodes tumor that’s not cancer does not affect your breast cancer risk, but you may be watched more closely, because these tumors can come back after surgery.

Last Medical Review: 03/16/2015
Last Revised: 04/21/2016