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Breast Cancer

Calcium Deposits in Breasts

06/05/2000

Question:

Recently, my 65 year old mother had her yearly mammogram. Everything was fine - 100% normal. However, the doctor mentioned to her that she had calcium deposits in her breast and had had them for several years. He said they`re nothing to worry about. We wouldn`t be concerned about this except for the fact that a friend of hers had a mastectomy last year because she had non-cancerous calcium deposits in a milk duct of her breast. Do calcium deposits eventually turn malignant? We don`t quite understand why her friend`s breast was taken off if the calcium deposits were benign. What gives?

Answer:

Calcium deposits in the breast are associated with noncancerous conditions or they can be an important sign of early breast cancer. Most calcifications(80%) are noncancerous. Benign calcifications can be identified accurately. Those that are well defined, widely scattered and mostly the same size are associated with benign fibrocystic disease. The configurations of the calcification are definite for secretory breast disease and are not cancerous. However, microcalcifications are one of the most important signs of early breast cancer found in mammograms. It is sometimes the only finding in 30-50% of breast cancers. Calcifications that are highly associated with breast cancer have definite characteristics such as linear shape, branching, irregular contours and are localized or in a small group. The number of calcifications does not indicate whether they are benign or malignant as cancer can have as few as 5 calcifications or as many as hundreds.

An important follow-up test after calcifications are found in a mammogram is called magnification radiography. It can determine the size, number, shape and configuration of the calcium deposits. Those that are irregular, asymmmetric or any of the other characteristics listed above are potentially malignant and require a biopsy for a definitive diagnosis.

If you do not have the information about the characteristics of your mother`s calcifications, you may request a copy of the mammogram. You may want to explore the rationale of having the magnification radiography for more explicit information for your peace of mind. Thank you writing for clarification about calcifications. It is important information women need to know.

For more information:

Go to the Breast Cancer health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Janet   Trigg, RN, MSN, EdD Janet Trigg, RN, MSN, EdD
Formerly:
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati