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Fibroepithelial lesions revisited: implications for diagnosis and management


Fibroepithelial lesions of the breast, comprising the fibroadenoma and phyllodes tumour, are a unique group of neoplasms that share histological characteristics but possess different clinical behaviour. The fibroadenoma is the commonest benign breast tumour in women, while the phyllodes tumour is rare and may be associated with recurrences, grade progression and even metastasis. The diagnosis of fibroadenoma is usually straightforward, with recognised histological variants such as the cellular, complex, juvenile and myxoid forms. The phyllodes tumour comprises benign, borderline and malignant varieties, graded using a constellation of histological parameters based on stromal characteristics of hypercellularity, atypia, mitoses, overgrowth and the nature of tumour borders. While phyllodes tumour grade correlates with clinical behaviour, interobserver variability in assessing multiple parameters that are potentially of different biological weightage leads to significant challenges in accurate grade determination and consequently therapy. Differential diagnostic considerations along the spectrum of fibroepithelial tumours can be problematic in routine practice. Recent discoveries of the molecular underpinnings of these tumours may have diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic implications.

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Fig. 1: Microscopic appearance of a fibroadenoma with both intracanalicular and pericanalicular growth patterns.
Fig. 2: Infarction in a fibroadenoma shows haemorrhage and loss of cellular detail.
Fig. 3: Invasive carcinoma in a fibroadenoma.
Fig. 4: Cellular fibroadenoma.
Fig. 5: Complex fibroadenoma.
Fig. 6: Juvenile fibroadenoma.
Fig. 7: Myxoid fibroadenoma.
Fig. 8: Paediatric fibroadenoma.
Fig. 9: Macroscopic pathology of phyllodes tumour.
Fig. 10: Benign phyllodes tumour.
Fig. 11: Benign phyllodes tumour.
Fig. 12: Malignant phyllodes tumour.
Fig. 13: Borderline phyllodes tumour.
Fig. 14: Liposarcoma in phyllodes tumour.
Fig. 15
Fig. 16: Benign fibroepithelial tumour with hybrid tubular adenoma and fibroadenoma areas and bizarre multinucleated stromal cells.
Fig. 17: Borderline phyllodes tumour with stromal giant cells.
Fig. 18: Fibromatosis.
Fig. 19: Fibromatosis-like metaplastic carcinoma.
Fig. 20: Spindle-cell metaplastic carcinoma.
Fig. 21: Malignant phyllodes tumour with stromal p63 staining.
Fig. 22: Structure and function of wild-type and mutant MED12 gene.
Fig. 23


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The support by the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Division of Pathology Breast Research Group, SGH Department of Anatomical Pathology and the International Fibroepithelial Consortium is appreciated. The assistance of Ms Nur Diyana Binte Md Nasir and Ms Valerie Koh with the tables and figures is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Puay Hoon Tan.

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Tan, P.H. Fibroepithelial lesions revisited: implications for diagnosis and management. Mod Pathol 34, 15–37 (2021).

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