Category: 

What Are Microcalcifications on a Mammogram?

Microcalcifications are undetectable by manual breast exams.
Microcalcifications on a mammogram may be indicative of breast cancer, but they are often benign.
Article Details
  • Written By: Melissa Barrett
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Bill Clinton met John F. Kennedy when he was 16.  more...

September 2 ,  1666 :  The "Great Fire of London" burned down more than 13,000 buildings, including St. Paul's   more...

Occasionally, deposits of calcium can build up within the tissue of the breast. These small buildups are undetectable by manual breast exams but can be seen as microcalcifications on a mammogram. While these accumulations can be an indication of breast cancer, they are often quite benign.

While early stage breast cancer may be considered, there are several more common and less serious causes of breast calcifications. Most commonly, microcalcifications on a mammogram can be linked to a healing injury of the breast. In some cases, milk ducts in the breast can thicken and become clogged, resulting in calcification. Similarly, mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue, can also cause an abnormal mammogram result.

When examining microcalcifications on a mammogram, physicians look at their size, shape, and groupings. Larger deposits of calcium salts are called macrocalcifications. These are normally painless and harmless. Unless these breast calcifications cause discomfort, no further treatment is required.

Mammograms that show small, round white dots scattered throughout the breast are common and generally do not cause concern. White specks that are flat or otherwise oddly shaped are more troubling. Situations when these irregularly shaped accumulations are densely gathered may indicate the early presence of breast cancer.

Ad

Even when microcalcifications on a mammogram cause concern, the presence of breast cancer is often ruled out by subsequent mammograms that focus specifically on the areas of calcification. Additional testing, including ultrasound imagery and blood tests, may be ordered. In instances where the presence of breast cancer is strongly suspected, a biopsy may be performed.

Fortunately, even when breast cancer is determined to be the cause of microcalcifications on a mammogram, the prognosis is very good. When breast cancer is diagnosed in this early stage of development, it is normally called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). In essence, this means that the cancer is very localized and often quite treatable.

Most women with DCIS need to have only the affected area of the breast removed. This minor surgery, called a lumpectomy, requires little recovery time. In addition, this procedure has little to no effect on the appearance of the breast. Radiation therapy is often suggested to insure that the cancer has been completely eradicated.

Without improvements in mammography technology, the discovery of DCIS would be nearly impossible. Historically, breast cancer was generally only discoverable after it became so large as to be felt by physical examination. Unfortunately, by this point, treatment was difficult, and successful recovery normally came at the price of one or both breasts. As such, the arrival of equipment sensitive enough to detect breast calcifications is a major advantage in fight against breast cancer. Women are encouraged to make use of this advantage by scheduling regular mammograms as part of their health care regimens.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

anon304859
Post 1

I'm posting this because I don't know what is going on with the skin on my breast. I'm developing brown lines or spots on my skin. Does anybody know what this might be caused from or what it is? Also my breasts are very sensitive (sore) to the touch and hurt all the time. Give me answers. I don't want to go to the hospital for this if it is nothing!

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email