If your mammogram shows breast calcifications, your radiologist may recommend other imaging tests or a biopsy. While calcifications can be benign, they can also be found in the breast in association with breast cancer.
If your doctor has recommended that you get a biopsy or you wonder whether to have one, you can seek a second opinion before undergoing any procedures.
If you do need a biopsy, you may also want to get a second opinion after your biopsy. This will help ensure your diagnosis is accurate and that your treatment recommendation is appropriate.
Many women never have any symptoms when they have breast cancer. They may not feel any different. Many breast cancers associated with calcifications can’t be felt, but it’s possible they can be.
Be sure to look out for symptoms like lumps, nipple discharge, or other changes in your breasts.
It’s possible to miss some of the warning signs or not have warning signs, but a mammogram can show if you have a breast calcification. In some women, that can be a sign of cancer.
Breast calcifications are calcium deposits within breast tissue. On mammograms, they look like white spots or flecks and are usually so small that you can’t physically feel them. They’re common in older women, especially those who have gone through menopause.
Breast calcifications can form in several different ways. The most common is to form naturally as a part of the aging process. Calcification may also occur due to:
- a noncancerous change in your breast, such as a fibroadenoma or breast cyst
- injury to your breast
- breast implants
- cancerous and noncancerous breast lesions
Most breast calcifications are noncancerous (benign). Certain patterns of calcifications may be an indication of breast cancer. If calcifications are in tight clusters with irregular shapes, or if they grow in a line, that could indicate cancer.
The two main types of breast calcifications that can appear on a mammogram are macrocalcifications and microcalcifications.
Macrocalcifications appear on the mammogram as a large round shape and are most often benign. You won’t need any additional testing or follow-up.
Microcalcifications are small. On the mammogram, they may look like fine, white specks like grains of salt. Microcalcifications may fit into one of the following categories by the radiologist, which may appear on your mammogram report:
- probably benign
- highly suspicious
Any pattern that’s suspicious or highly suspicious should be biopsied to rule out cancer. Calcifications that appear benign aren’t usually biopsied. But they should be monitored for any changes.
Repeating mammograms every 6 to 12 months may be recommended to monitor benign calcifications. The radiologist will compare newer images to older images for any changes in the pattern or size of the calcifications.
It’s a good idea to have your mammograms done in the same place so that the technique and results follow the same standard. You may also need additional mammograms that provide magnified views of the area, or you may need a breast biopsy. As with any medical conditions, it’s important to understand what breast calcifications are and if a second opinion is needed.
If you have films performed in a facility you do not usually use, be sure to bring your old mammograms. The facility may even request 3 or more years of old films for comparison.
No one knows your body better than you. It’s always fine to get a second opinion, regardless of the type of calcification shown on your mammogram.
If your doctor thinks your breast calcifications are cancerous, a second opinion is a good idea. Make sure to see a specialist. You can take your mammogram results to a breast imaging center to be reexamined by a breast imaging radiologist or see another doctor. Be sure to ask your insurance how this will be covered.
Your doctor may also recommend you get a second opinion, especially if you have had cancer or have a family history of cancer.
Whether you decide to get a second opinion or not, your doctor may still encourage you to come back in 6 months for a follow-up. They will want to know if the breast calcifications have changes. Both forms of breast calcifications are usually harmless, but changes in microcalcifications can be an indicator of breast cancer.
If your mammogram indicates cancer, your doctor can help get you an appointment for a second opinion.
Your doctor can help you obtain the records you may need for your appointment. At the breast imaging center, the radiologist can compare your past mammograms and look for any noticeable changes. They may also recommend additional testing.
Since microcalcifications are very small, they can sometimes be difficult to see. You may have to get type of mammogram called a full-field digital mammogram. It provides the same results but makes it much easier to see the microcalcifications clearly.
Check with your insurance company if you don’t know whether your visit will be covered and to find a provider in your network. Many insurance plans now cover second opinions, and they’re treated just like other appointments.
If your second opinion differs from the first, it’s important to understand the differences. Differences in opinions are possible.
Feel comfortable asking your doctor questions. Breast calcifications in women generally aren’t a reason to be concerned, but you should understand any hidden dangers.
Remember the benefit of a second opinion and that you can ask for one at any time during your treatment. When it comes to fighting cancer, early detection is key.