If a woman has been detected with breast calcifications, she may well apprehend that there is a connection between her breast calcifications and cancer. However are breast calcifications something that women need to worry about? Are they a sign of cancer or a risk factor for developing the disease in future?
What are breast calcifications?
Calcification means deposits of calcium salts that are usually detected by a mammogram. There is a connection between breast calcifications and cancer; however it is only some types of calcification that may raise the risk.
Macrocalcifications usually show up as larger white areas on a mammogram. These are benign presences in the breast.
Microcalcifications show up as white specks and could be in various different patterns such as clusters or lines. These tend to be more likely to be dangerous since there could indicate a very early form of cancer known as ductal carcinoma in situ.
If such calcifications are noted, treatment such as medications, lumpectomy and radiation may be indicated. So in this type of calcium deposit, particularly tight clusters, the connection between breast calcifications and cancer is clearer.
What causes breast calcifications?
There may be various causes for calcifications to appear in breast tissue. For instance any previous trauma or injury and even regular wear and tear could cause calcification.
Radiation to the chest could be another reason.
A breast infection, inflammation or mastitis of the breast could also cause calcifications to appear. A dilated milk duct may also contain calcifications.
Sometimes it could be benign breast cyst that includes calcium deposits that shows up. Another type of benign breast growth known as a fibroadenoma could also include calcium deposits.
Personal hygiene products such as talcum, deodorants and lotions could show up as calcifications, particularly if these have been used shortly before a mammogram.
Previous breast surgery (augmentation, reduction, removal of tissue) could also cause calcification.
Calcifications increase with age, and may be more commonly seen among women over the age of 50.
Sometimes the calcification may indicate a problem other than breast calcifications and cancer. This could be the indication of cardiovascular disease in some cases. Blood vessel calcification should be checked out promptly.
What to do after breast calcifications are detected
Certain types of calcifications, such as close clusters or pleomorphic calcifications may require further investigation. Further mammograms to take a closer look the calcifications may be needed. A biopsy may be needed to detect any connection between the breast calcifications and cancer.
The fact is that about 10% of premenopausal women and as many as 50% women may have some amount of breast calcifications. However in a majority of cases there is nothing further that needs doing. 80% of the calcium deposits are microcalcifications and they don’t need any further investigation or biopsies.
Where the clusters are seen as being suspicious or if the doctor detects some connection between the breast calcifications and cancer now or in the future, there could be some follow up required in terms of further investigation as well as treatment.