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Breast Problems

Breast calcifications

​​​What are breast calcifications?

Calcifications are tiny calcium deposits in the breast tissue that are best seen on a mammogram. These deposits are so tiny that they can’t be felt by you or your doctor during a breast exam.

What causes breast calcifications?

Breast calcifications can develop in the breast:

  • from breast cysts
  • after an injury or infection in the breast
  • if you had previous surgery in the breast
  • when blood vessels age (get older)
  • from other benign (not cancerous) growths in the breast, such as fibroadenomas
  • if a milk duct gets plugged or has been plugged in the past
  • if you have breast cancer

Taking calcium pills doesn’t cause breast calcifications.

Are there different types of calcifications?

Yes, there are 2 types of breast calcifications. The type of breast calcification helps a radiologist (a doctor who does imaging tests, like X-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs) decide if you need more tests.

Microcalcifications are calcium deposits that look like tiny white specks on a mammogram. Depending on how they look on your mammogram, the radiologist may call you to do another test to look more closely at the calcifications because in a small number of women with microcalcifications, they may be related to an early form of breast cancer.

Macrocalcifications are calcium deposits that look like single white dots on a mammogram. They are larger than microcalcifications. As women get older they are more likely to have macrocalcifications. Macrocalcifications are found in more than half of all women over 50 years of age and are usually not related to cancer. They may also develop after an injury to the breast.

What if I have calcifications on a mammogram?

Your follow-up depends on the type of calcifications, if there is a pattern to the calcifications, and how many calcifications you have.

If you have microcalcifications your follow-up may include:

  • another mammogram to get a closer, magnified view of the area
  • a follow-up mammogram in 3 to 6 months
  • a breast biopsy

If you have macrocalcifications, the radiologist will compare your most recent mammograms to ones you’ve had in the past to make sure that the calcifications haven’t changed. As long as the macrocalcifications haven’t changed, you won’t need more testing. ​

Current as of: June 26, 2020

Author: Women’s Health, Alberta Health Services