Breast calcifications are non-cancerous calcium deposits that develop anywhere in the breast tissue. These deposits are very small, and difficult to feel, and occur commonly as part of the breast changes experienced due to aging. In addition, the deposits do not cause any pain.
Breast calcifications are very common, and are usually benign, but in some rare cases, they might be an indication of early breast cancer, which one can find out after further tests.
Although breast calcifications are more common in women, they can also be found in men, which is rare. Note that calcium from your diet does not cause breast calcifications.
There are two types of breast calcifications:
- Microcalcifications: These are small non-cancerous changes to the breast; but they can also be an early form of breast cancer.
- Macrocalcifications: These are larger non-cancerous deposits, which usually do not require any analyses.
Causes of Breast Calcifications
As mentioned, breast calcifications are usually non-cancerous and occur due to aging. Other than this, there are other factors which can lead to this breast condition. This includes:
There are several factors that can cause this damage, which include:
- Breast changes due to the presence of cysts
- Breast changes like fibroadenoma
- Injury or bruise to the breast
- Surgery to the breast
- Having breast implant
- Other times it can occur due to breast injury
Common Symptoms of Breast Calcifications
Breast calcifications are very small and cannot be felt during a routine breast exam. This means that they don’t show any symptoms. They are usually first noticed during a routine mammogram.
Diagnosis of Breast Calcifications
Since breast calcifications do not present any symptoms, it is mostly found during a routine breast mammogram due to another breast problem one might have. They usually appear on the mammogram as small white dots. During the mammogram to diagnose breast calcifications, the breast specialist will focus mainly on:
- The size of the calcifications
- If they are in a scattered or lined up pattern
- If their shape is irregular, round, or rod-like
Treatment of Breast Calcifications
If the breast calcifications are diagnosed as non-cancerous, then nothing is done. This includes not removing or testing them. On the other hand, if the breast specialist sees the breast calcifications as suspicious or uncertain, then further tests are done to make a conclusive diagnosis.
These further tests include:
- An ultrasound scan to generate images of the breast tissues
- Mammogram to give an amplified image of the breast calcifications
- A core biopsy whereby a sample of the breast tissue is taken to be examined under a microscope.
- Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA): Here, a fine needle and syringe are used to take samples of the cells to be observed under a microscope.
- Vacuum Assisted Excision Biopsy Surgery: A excision biopsy is a procedure used to remove an area of breast calcifications. This can be done under local or general anesthesia. After the removal of the affected tissue, they are taken to the laboratory for further examination under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.
- Vacuum assisted (VAC/VAB) excision biopsy: Vacuum assisted excision biopsy, which you might be offered, involves a process of removing the calcifications under local anesthesia, without having a full surgical procedure under general anesthesia. Although vacuum assisted excision biopsy is considered minimally invasive, there might be bruising and some degree of discomfort after the procedure, which will last for a few days. This procedure might not affect the shape of the breast, but there might be a dent where the calcifications were.
- Inserting a metal marker: This involves placing a small metal clip, which is made from titanium, in the area where the biopsy has been done. The main reason for this is to make the area easily identifiable just in case another biopsy is required. The clip does not set off any alarms at security checks and is safe to have while undergoing an MRI. But just in case you do, inform your doctor about the titanium clip beforehand.
- Localisation: If a diagnosis for breast calcifications is not made, or if it’s not possible to get a biopsy, then a surgery to remove the breast tissue affected by the breast calcifications is recommended. The surgery may also be required is the test results show a sign of early cancer. The procedure is usually done under local anesthesia.
Do Breast Calcifications Increase the Risk of Breast Cancer?
Being diagnosed with any form of breast lump or breast condition can make one feel uneasy, thinking they are at a greater risk of developing breast cancer. Fortunately, breast calcifications, which are non-cancerous, do not increase the risk of developing breast cancer nor does it ‘eventually turn to breast cancer’. On the other hand, if the calcifications are due to atypical changes, this can increase the risks. To stay breast aware, you should continue with the routine breast screening as usual, and if you are concerned about any changes that your breasts might have, it is recommended you visit your doctor at the earliest.
At King’s College Hospital London Dubai, our Breast Care Clinic caters to every type of breast cancer and breast conditions. If you are facing any kind of abnormal changes to your breast, regardless how small, get in touch for a consultation with one of our breast doctors. For more information on breast cancer and breast care, book an appointment below.
BOOK AN APPOINTMENT