Medical Services

Breast Care Center: Breast Problems & Symptoms

Calcifications

Calcifications are calcium deposits found within the breast tissue. These deposits can be identified by Mammography. They are extremely common and are frequently due to non-cancerous causes. Calcifications are not related to or caused by dietary intake of calcium. They can, however, be an early sign of breast cancer and should be analyzed carefully by your radiologist.

There are two main types of calcifications: Macrocalcifications and Microcalcifications.
Macrocalcifications are usually large and round. They are ordinarily recognized as benign (non-cancerous) and need no additional testing.

Microcalcifications are smaller and may be numerous. They can be random or clustered and may vary in size and shape. The radiologist may request additional mammography views for further evaluation. For example, magnification views (enlargements) may provide more detailed information.
There are several kinds of microcalcifications. Three frequently noted types are as follows:

  • Benign: These microcalcifications can be identified clearly as benign (non-cancerous) by


    an experienced radiologist and need no further work-up.


  • Indeterminate: Such calcifications are not clearly benign or malignant and need


    additional tests.


  • Malignant: These microcalcifications are almost always related to malignancy and biopsy


    should be performed.

Calcifications classified on a routine Mammogram as “indeterminate” may be evaluated with magnification views (enlargements). This assists the radiologist in determining the cause of the microcalcifications and whether it is “benign,” “probably benign,” “suspicious,” or “malignant.”
"Probably benign" means that the calcifications have a 98% chance of being caused by a non-cancerous process. "Suspicious" microcalcifications, however, may be seen with either benign or malignant processes, but most commonly these are benign, as with fibrocystic change.

A Mammotome Biopsy (a minimally invasive, vacuum-assisted core biopsy) is the best methods to determine the cause of calcifications classified as "suspicious," since the chance of malignancy is 20-25%.