About Breast Calcifications
Calcifications are tiny deposits of calcium clustered together in the breast tissue. They appear as white spots or flecks on a mammogram.
Breast calcifications are fairly common, particularly in women over 50 years of age. They are almost always benign (not cancerous). However, there are certain patterns of calcifications that may indicate breast cancer or a precancerous condition.
Types of Breast Calcifications
There are two types of breast calcifications: macrocalcifications and microcalcifications.
Larger calcium deposits are called macrocalcifications. They are often scattered randomly throughout the breast. They are probably due to calcium deposits in the breast arteries, old injuries or inflammation. These calcifications may actually be in the skin (rather than the breast tissue) due to a rash or metallic residues from powers, lotions or deodorants. These usually don’t require additional testing.
Microcalcifications are smaller calcium deposits. When these are found in clusters or certain patterns, they may indicate tumor growth. In this case, further testing may be required to rule out cancer. Even suspicious microcalcifications usually turn out to be non-cancerous.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
Risk Factors for Breast Calcifications
Aging is the main risk factor for breast calcifications. Breast calcifications are found in 50% of women over 50. They are found in only about 10% of women under the age of 50.
The following circumstances may make you more likely to have breast calcifications:
- An old injury to the breast
- Inflammation due to infection
- Prior radiation therapy for breast cancer
Symptoms of Breast Calcifications
Calcifications have no symptoms that a woman will notice herself (like a lump). They are found during breast exams, such as a screening mammogram.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing Breast Calcifications
Calcifications are usually not cancerous. However, in some instances they are associated with very early cancer (ductal carcinoma in situ). So they need to be investigated thoroughly.
In order to evaluate calcifications more carefully, additional magnification views are taken during a diagnostic mammogram. Sometimes a breast biopsy may be necessary to definitively determine if the calcifications are cancerous or not.
Treating this Condition
If the calcifications are not cancerous, which they most often are not, there is nothing you need to do. If a breast biopsy is recommended and the calcifications are found to be ductal carcinoma in situ (cancer), you will be referred to a surgeon by your referring physician.