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What is the Connection Between Microcalcifications and Breast Cancer?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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Microcalcifications and breast cancer can sometimes occur together. Microcalcifications, or microscopic bits of calcium, tend to build up in the area where cancer cells are quickly dividing and forming tumors. Microcalcifications are often detectable on mammograms, and doctors often consider them a sign of early breast cancer, or an indication of pre-cancerous activity in the breast tissue. While microcalcifications do not always signal breast cancer, the relationship that can exist between microcalcifications and developing tumors lets doctors know to investigate further for signs of cancer when microcalcifications appear.

Many women are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer after microcalcifications are found on mammogram results. Microcalcifications and breast cancer don't always go hand in hand. Sometimes the microcalcifications appear in conjunction with benign tumor growth. But spotting the accumulation of calcium within breast tissue can help doctors detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, when treatment can be most effective and the patient's chances of survival are highest.

The tendency of microcalcifications and breast cancer or benign tumors to occur together help to make mammograms an effective diagnostic tool for breast cancer. These calcium deposits in the breast tissue can help doctors find breast cancer before a palpable tumor forms. They also help in the early detection of cancers that do not usually cause palpable tumors.

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When calcium deposits are detected in breast tissue, doctors typically use a combination of X-ray magnification and tissue biopsy to determine if these deposits are signs of cancer, or signs of benign development. X-ray magnification usually enlarges the mammogram image to the point where doctors can more thoroughly examine the physical characteristics of the calcifications. From examining the shape, size, and amount of microcalcifications, doctors can usually determine if breast cancer is possible. Most calcifications are benign. Even those originally classified as possibly malignant are eventually found to be benign almost 80% of the time.

Most women who are diagnosed with breast microcalcifications do not have breast cancer. If cancer is suspected, a tissue biopsy can confirm it. Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at this stage survive with treatment. The five-year survival rate for detecting breast cancer at this early stage is about 97%.

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stoneMason
Post 4

Contrary to what most women think, mammograms are not always 100% successful at finding growths in breasts. Some women have different type of breast tissue which makes it difficult for the mammogram machine to detect. So the fact that microcalcification often occurs around these growths is actually immensely beneficial. If somehow, the machine doesn't pick up on the growth, it can pick up on the calcium deposits.

And like the article said, these deposits may start occurring very early on, before the tumor is significant, so it's also helpful for early diagnosis. We all know how important early diagnosis is in cancer.

ZipLine
Post 3

@ysmina-- You have a good point about not jumping to conclusions. I agree with that. But even if a growth is benign, it's still important to keep track of it. It is not unheard of for benign growths to become malignant later on.

I have a benign breast growth as well. It too was discovered after microcalcifications showed up on my mammogram. My doctor suggested that I don't have it removed since it's harmless right now and removing it would cause my breast to lose shape. She also said that a new one may form later. But I still have to go for a mammogram every six months to keep track of it. If it's growing or changing, then it will have to be removed.

ysmina
Post 2

My sister had microcalcifications. Her doctor worried about cancer and asked for a biopsy of the growth. We were shocked and scared at the same time. Thankfully, the growth turned out to be benign. It's good that the growth was found but we were unnecessarily alarmed by the microcalcifications. So my advice to women who experience the same is to stay calm and not jump to conclusions until further tests are done.

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