Calcium deposits within the breast tissue are referred to as breast calcifications. A mammography can detect the presence of breast calcifications.
Breast calcifications appear as white patches or flecks on mammograms. They are prevalent in elderly women, particularly those who have experienced menopause.
The majority of breast calcifications are benign. Certain calcification patterns may be indicative of breast cancer. If calcifications form dense clusters with odd shapes or grow in a line, this may be a sign of malignancy.
Types of Breast Calcifications
Macrocalcifications: These are huge, spherical, bright white patches that appear irregularly spread throughout the breast tissue on a mammography. This is the most prevalent. They are frequently unrelated to cancer and do not require further evaluation.
Microcalcifications: On a mammography, they are little white dots. While these can sometimes be randomly spread, they are occasionally clustered and can be a symptom of malignancy. If your mammography reveals microcalcifications, your doctor will monitor their appearance over time and will almost certainly order more tests.
Causes of Breast Calcifications
Although the etiology of calcifications in breast tissue is unknown, they are not induced by consuming an excessive amount of calcium or supplementing with calcium.
They are detected in around half of all women over the age of 50 who undergo mammography. They are, nevertheless, seen in approximately 10% of mammograms performed on younger women.
Women who have undergone breast surgery for any reason or who have sustained an injury to their breasts, such as in a car accident, appear to be at an increased risk of developing calcifications, as do women who have previously been treated for breast cancer.
Calcifications within breast vessels may also form as a result of advancing age or a previous infection in the breast tissue.
Possible causes of breast calcifications include:
- Breast cancer
- Breast cysts
- Cell secretions or debris
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
- Mammary duct ectasia
- Previous injury or surgery to the breast (fat necrosis)
- Previous radiation therapy for cancer
- Skin (dermal) or blood vessel (vascular) calcification
Symptoms of Breast Calcifications
The majority of women who have breast calcifications exhibit no symptoms. Typically, individuals discover they have them after normal mammography.
When To See The Doctor
If your radiologist feels that your breast calcifications are related to precancerous changes or breast cancer, you may require another mammography with magnification views to examine the calcifications more closely. Alternatively, the radiologist may propose a breast biopsy to ascertain the presence of cancer in a sample of breast tissue.
Your radiologist may request previous mammography photos to compare and ascertain whether the calcifications are new or have altered in size or pattern.
If your radiologist determines that breast calcifications are caused by a benign condition, he or she may request a six-month follow-up mammography with magnification views. The radiologist examines the images to determine whether the shape, size, and number of calcifications have altered or have remained constant.
Treatment of Breast Calcifications
Breast calcification can manifest itself in two distinct ways on a mammogram:
Macrocalcifications are often greater than 0.5 millimeters (mm). and can take the form of dots or lines. These are frequently benign. If you have this type, no extra treatment is necessary; however, your doctor will normally request that you return for follow-up testing.
Microcalcifications are less than 0.5 mm in diameter and typically appear as microscopic, white spots like grains of salt.
If your mammography reveals that your microcalcifications are located in an area of rapidly proliferating cells or are clustered in a certain pattern, your doctor will almost certainly interpret them as suspicious for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or breast cancer. According to the radiologist’s assessment of your mammogram, you may require a biopsy.
Anything that appears to be harmless will almost certainly not require treatment. It may require some follow-up to ensure that nothing odd develops.