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Breast Calcifications On Your Mammogram

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Updated April 05, 2014

Breast Calcifications on a Mammogram

Breast Calcifications on a Mammogram

National Cancer Institute

Breast Calcifications: What Are They?:

Calcifications are one of the findings that can be seen on your mammogram. These are very small bits of calcium can appear within the soft tissue of your breast. Calcifications are not breast cancer. These aren't always a sign of breast cancer. Sometimes calcifications are an indication of a precancerous condition. They appear as white dots on your mammogram.

Calcifications are divided into two kinds:

Macrocalcifications are bigger bits of calcium, and are not usually linked to breast cancer.

Microcalcifications are quite tiny bits of calcium, and may show up in clusters, or in patterns (like circles or lines) and are associated with extra cell activity in breast tissue. Usually the extra cell growth is not cancerous, but sometimes tight clusters of microcalcifications can indicate early breast cancer. Scattered microcalcifications are usually a sign of benign breast tissue.

What happens next, if you have Microcalcifications?:

If your mammogram shows microcalcifications in tight clusters, your doctor or radiologist may recommend that you have a diagnostic mammogram, an ultrasound, or a biopsy.
If you have a couple of microcalcifications that look questionable, you may be asked to come back in six months for a comparative mammogram. That will help the doctors see if any changes are happening.
It’s good to do these follow-up exams to make sure that you get the best information on your health.

Some benign causes will make calcifications show up on a mammogram:

  • old injury to breast tissue, natural wear and tear
  • mastitis, or inflammation caused by a breast infection
  • calcium collected inside a dilated milk duct
  • calcium mixed with fluid in a benign breast cyst
  • powders, ointments or deodorants deposit calcium on the skin
  • radiation treatment for breast cancer
  • calcification in the arteries within your breast
  • calcifications in a fibroadenoma (benign growth)

Where and How Often Do Calcifications Appear?:

  • macrocalcifications show up in about 50 percent of women over 50, and 10 percent of women under 50 years of age
  • macrocalcifications are usually not worrisome and won't require a biopsy
  • 80 percent of microcalcifications are benign
  • microcalcifications can help detect ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

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References:

Breast calcifications: Are they breast cancer? MayoClinic.com. Last Updated: August 10, 2006. Breast calcifications: Are they breast cancer?

Benign Breast Conditions. Imaging tests for breast disease diagnosis. American Cancer Society. Last Updated: 5/15/2003. Benign Breast Conditions
Related Video
Getting a Mammogram
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