Calcium calcifications are small deposits of calcium located within the breast tissue. According to the California Pacific Medical Center, calcium califications in the breast are common and usually benign. The calcifications generally appear as white spots on a mammogram. Occasionally, the calcifications can be indicative of early breast cancer, so they all must be evaluated by a doctor.
Three Types of Calcifications
There are three categories of calcium calcifications in the breast. The first category is benign calcifications, which is the most common. If a calcification is benign, no follow-up testing is required, and the calcification will continue to be tracked during annual mammograms. The second category refers to probably benign calcifications. According to California Pacific Medical Center, this means the calcification is 98 percent or more likely to be benign. The third class of calcifications are suspicious calcifications. This means it is difficult to tell whether the calcification is benign or malignant. A follow-up biopsy must be done to determine whether the calcification is indicative of breast cancer. According to California Pacific Medical Center, approximately one out of every four or five patients with a suspicious calcification actually has breast cancer, which is usually at a very early stage.
Doctors usually evaluate calcifications by using X-ray magnification to classify them into one of the three aforementioned groups. They evaluate the size, shape and quantity of the calcifications to determine the appropriate treatment. If the calcification is suspicious, additional procedures may be required, including a needle biospy to draw cells from the calcification or a surgical biopsy to scrape a small bit of tissue from the calcification.
Types of Calcifications
According to University of Cincinnati Netwellness, the appearance and quantity of the calcium calcifications can provide clues as to whether the calcifications are benign or malignant. Benign calcifications usually appear as large chunks. They may be caused by age, as calcium leaves the bone and becomes deposited in other parts of the body, including the breast. Benign calcifications caused by breakdown of bone are usually too large to fit into breast ducts, so generally they are not seen as potentially cancerous. Microcalcifications are tiny specks of calcium that occur in the breast ducts, which are potentially cancerous. These microcalcifications are more likely to be pre-cancerous if they appear in groups or clusters within only one breast.
Monitoring Benign Calcifications
A benign calcification can't turn into a malignant calcification, and it does not become pre-cancerous over time. A malignant calcification is malignant from the beginning. According to California Pacific Medical Center, in benign calcifications, the risk of malignancy developing is lower than 2 percent. Benign calfications still must be monitored. California Pacific Medical Center recommends one additional follow-up mammogram in six months. Patients can return to normal annual mammograms as long as no changes are seen and no additional calcifications are discovered.
Diet and Breast Calcifications
An excess of calcium in the diet does not cause calcium calcifications to form. Calcium supplements also do not appear to be responsible for calcium calcifications, nor does hormone therapy.