Breast calcifications are small deposits of calcium in the breast tissue that show up on mammograms as bright white specks or dots. This happens because the calcium readily absorbs the X-rays. Calcifications are frequently found on mammograms and are especially common after menopause.
Calcifications can appear in the breast’s ducts and/or lobules (these are called epithelial-related calcifications). They also can show up in other parts of the breast such as the supportive tissue and blood vessels.
Calcifications aren't connected to the calcium in your diet. They also can't develop into breast cancer. Rather, they are a "marker" for some underlying process that is occurring in the breast tissue. In most cases, the process is benign (not associated with cancer).
Calcifications can be a sign of other benign conditions such as:
- fibroadenoma (a common benign breast tumor)
- fat necrosis (scar tissue that can form after damage to fatty breast tissue)
- mammary duct ectasia (widening of the milk duct, which can then fill with fluid)
Calcifications are viewed with concern only because they sometimes develop in areas where an underlying breast cancer is present. This can be an early-stage ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS, which is confined to the breast duct) or a true invasive cancer. Smaller, irregularly-shaped calcifications clustered together in one area of the breast are the most suspicious. You and your doctor can work together to determine whether any areas of calcification require further investigation with imaging studies or biopsy.
Learn more about calcifications.