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What Are They?
Breast calcifications are simply tiny calcium deposits within the breast tissue. They are very common and, in most cases, are nothing to worry about. Benign breast calcifications are not cancerous nor will they lead to breast cancer. They are likely to be found post-menopause, showing up in a mammogram as small white flecks, dots or grains. If the calcium deposits are in any way suspicious then your doctor will order further testing to find out their true nature.
What causes breast calcifications? The following are all possible causes:
- Past injury to the breast
- Previous injury or inflammation
- Radiation therapy for cancer
- Calcification of the blood vessels within the breast
- Calcium from the fluid of a benign cyst
- Deposits in the milk ducts
- Calcium deposits in a fibroadenoma, which is a noncancerous growth
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Breast calcifications are usually discovered in a mammogram — they are too small to be detected by a self-exam. These deposits are either macrocalcifications, which are larger white dots, or microcalcifications, which appear as small white flecks. Macrocalcifications are considered to be noncancerous and are likely to be the result of calcification of arteries, past injury, or infection. Microcalcifications are not by any means cancerous by nature, but depending on their size, shape and pattern, they may be indicative of a malignant growth.
If suspicious, further testing may be required such as biopsy or a second mammogram in the relative future. According to the California Pacific Medical Center, only one out of every four to five cases of suspicious calcifications is an early sign of a cancerous growth. Also, if they are a sign of breast cancer, they are a very early sign — when breast cancer is detected early it is much more likely to be cured.
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Living with Calcium Deposits
What should you do if your doctor finds breast calcifications? This is not a condition that requires treatment if benign, but rather a side effect of age. You should continue to have routine mammograms to monitor breast health. You should talk to your doctor about your past and present health and about the nature of the calcium deposits. There is no need to stop taking calcium supplements or to avoid calcium-rich foods, in fact this mineral is extremely important for women, especially post-menopause when the chances of developing conditions such as osteoporosis increases.
Benign breast calcifications are not cancer nor a sign of cancer. If the calcifications are not benign, which is rare, then you have a case of very early detection of breast cancer. While it is always important to see your doctor regularly, especially in the post-menopause years, to eat a high-fiber, nutrient-rich diet and to exercise regularly, calcium deposits are not a sign of concern or of a lack of healthy lifestyle choices in your life.
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Dr. Weil, http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400631/What-Causes-Breast-Calcifications.html
California Pacific Medical Center, http://www.cpmc.org/services/women/breast/breast_califcations.html
Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/breast-calcifications/MY00101
MSN Health, http://health.msn.com/health-topics/breast-cancer/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100212388