1. What is a phyllodes tumour?
2. Who it affects 
3. Diagnosing a benign phyllodes tumour
4. Treating a benign phyllodes tumour
5. After treatment
6. Further support

1. What is a phyllodes tumour?

Phyllodes tumours are rare and usually benign (not cancer). However, some phyllodes tumours are malignant (cancer). They are grouped into three types:

  • Benign (not cancer)
  • Borderline (with features between benign and malignant)
  • Malignant (cancer)

Phyllodes tumours are usually smooth, firm lumps in the breast. Occasionally, a phyllodes tumour grows fairly quickly and can be quite large. Sometimes the skin over the lump can be red.

It’s unlikely more than one phyllodes tumour will develop at a time, though it’s possible.

Having a benign phyllodes tumour doesn’t increase your risk of developing breast cancer.

The following information is for people with a benign phyllodes tumour. Read our information on borderline and malignant phyllodes tumours.

2. Who it affects

Benign phyllodes tumours can affect women at any age. However, they’re most common between 40 and 50 in women who haven’t been through the menopause.

Benign phyllodes tumours can develop in men but this is extremely rare.

3. Diagnosing a benign phyllodes tumour

A benign phyllodes tumour usually becomes noticeable as a lump in the breast.

Once you have been seen by your GP, you’ll be referred to a breast clinic, where you’ll be examined by a doctor or specialist nurse.

Some women will be diagnosed with a benign phyllodes tumour after attending routine breast screening without having found a lump.

Benign phyllodes tumours are diagnosed using a range of tests. These may include:

  • A mammogram (breast x-ray)
  • An ultrasound scan – uses sound waves to produce an image
  • A core biopsy – uses a hollow needle to take a sample of tissue, under local anaesthetic, to be looked at under a microscope (several tissue samples may be taken at the same time)

Although not commonly used to diagnose benign phyllodes tumours, you may also have:

  • A fine needle aspiration (FNA) – uses a fine needle and syringe to take a sample of cells to be looked at under a microscope
  • A vacuum assisted biopsy – uses a hollow probe connected to a vacuum to take a sample of tissue to be looked at under a microscope
  • An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan – uses magnetism and radio waves to produce a series of images of the inside of the breast. MRI doesn’t expose the body to x-ray radiation

Find out more about the tests you may have at a breast clinic.

Benign phyllodes tumours are often difficult to diagnose because they can be confused with other benign breast conditions, such as a fibroadenoma.

If, after having tests, your treatment team cannot be sure of the diagnosis, you may need to have an operation to remove the lump. This is so the whole area can be examined to get a definite diagnosis.

4. Treating a benign phyllodes tumour

Benign phyllodes tumours are treated with surgery. The aim of the surgery is to remove the tumour.

Sometimes further surgery may be needed to remove more tissue. Your treatment team will discuss your results with you and whether further surgery is needed.

In rare cases, a mastectomy may be recommended if the tumour takes up a large area of the breast. In this case you will usually be given the option of having breast reconstruction at the same time.

Your specialist will talk to you about the type of surgery you need.

5. After treatment

Benign phyllodes tumours can sometimes come back, usually in the same area of the breast, so your specialist may want you to have follow-up appointments.

Very rarely, benign phyllodes tumours can come back as a borderline or malignant phyllodes tumour.

If your tumour does come back, you’ll need to have further surgery. Your specialist will advise you what operation will be best if this happens.

It’s important to be breast aware and go back to your GP if you notice any changes in your breasts, regardless of how soon these occur after your diagnosis of a benign phyllodes tumour.

6. Further support

You may be anxious about being diagnosed with a benign phyllodes tumour. Even though you might feel relieved that it’s a benign condition, you may worry about it coming back.

If you’re worried about breast cancer or have a question about benign phyllodes tumours, our specialist team are ready to listen on our free Helpline.  


Last reviewed: October 2022
Next planned review begins 2025

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