Soft tissue

Superficial fibromatosis

This article was last reviewed and updated on January 8, 2019

by Bibianna Purgina, MD FRCPC

Quick facts:

  • Superficial fibromatosis is a non-cancerous tumour that develops from the connective tissue that surrounds muscles and organs in our body.
  • A tumour that starts in the hand is called Dupuytren’s contracture.
  • A tumour that starts in the foot is called Ledderhose’s disease.

Mesenchymal tissue

The human body is made up of many different types of tissue. Mesenchymal tissues include fibrous tissue, nerves, fat, muscle, tendons, ligaments, bone and cartilage.

What is superficial fibromatosis?

Superficial fibromatosis is a non-cancerous tumour. Most tumours start in fibrous tissue.

There are other names for superficial fibromatosis, based on where in the body it develops.   Superficial fibromatosis that develops in the palm of the hand is called Dupuytren’s contracture or palmar fibromatosis, and it can form hard bumps on the palm of the hand and puckering of the skin.  This can make it difficult to extend your fingers.  Dupuytren’s contracture is more common in older patients and can affect both hands.

Superficial fibromatosis that develops on the bottom of the foot (the sole) is called plantar fibromatosis or Ledderhose’s disease.

Sometimes superficial fibromatosis can involve the penis and is called penile fibromatosis or Peyronie’s disease. Penile fibromatosis typically affects men over the age of 40.

How do pathologists make this diagnosis?

All superficial fibromatosis are benign tumours and they all look very similar when viewed under the microscope.  In fact, the tumour cells of superficial fibromatosis look very similar to the cells that make up normal fibrous tissue.  These cells are called fibroblasts and myofibroblasts. However, unlike normal fibrous tissue, the cells in superficial fibromatosis form small round structures that pathologists call nodules. These nodules can be seen under the microscope which allows your pathologist to make the correct diagnosis.

The number of these fibroblasts and myofibroblasts cells in superficial fibromatosis changes depending on how long the nodules have been there.  Usually, tumours that have been there for a long time have fewer cells.

The diagnosis of superficial fibromatosis is usually made after the tumour is removed in a procedure called an excision.  The tissue is then sent to a pathologist who examines it under a microscope. In most cases, additional tests such as immunohistochemistry or molecular testing are not needed to confirm the diagnosis.

A+ A A-