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Mammogram - calcifications

Definition

Alternative Names

Calcifications on mammograms

Information

Calcifications are very commonly seen on a mammogram. These are small white spots on the mammogram. They do not relate to the amount of calcium you eat or take in medication.

Most calcifications are not a sign of cancer.

Large rounded calcifications (macrocalcifications) can be caused by:

  • Hardening of the arteries in the breast
  • Noncancerous breast lump called a fibroadenoma
  • Previous infection or inflammation

These calcifications do not need to be biopsied or watched with mammograms.

Microcalcifications are tiny calcium spots. These can also be noncancerous.

When several calcifications with irregular sizes and shapes are tightly clustered together, cancer is a possibility.

  • If the calcifications are not too suspicious, they can be watched with a follow-up mammogram.
  • If they appear suspicious, your health care provider will recommend a stereotaxic core biopsy. This is a needle biopsy that uses a type of mammogram machine to help find the suspicious calcifications.

See also: Breast biopsy - stereotactic

References

James JJ, Robin A, Wilson M, Evans AJ. The breast. In: Grainger RC, Allison D, Adam, Dixon AK, eds. Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 52.

Muss HB. Breast cancer and differential diagnosis of benign lesions. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 208.

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      Review Date: 12/17/2009

      Review By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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