Many women never have any symptoms they have breast cancer. They may not feel any different. They may also miss the telltale symptoms of breast cancer, like lumps or other changes in their breasts. It’s possible to miss the warning signs, but a mammogram can show if you have a breast calcification. In some women, that can be a sign of cancer.
If your mammogram shows breast calcifications, your radiologist may recommend imaging or a biopsy. If you think you need a biopsy, you can seek a second opinion before undergoing any procedures. You may also want to get a second opinion after your biopsy to ensure. This will ensure your diagnosis is accurate and that your treatment recommendation is appropriate.
What are breast calcifications?
Breast calcifications are calcium deposits within breast tissue. On mammograms, they look like white spots or flecks and are usually so small that you cannot physically feel them. They’re common in older women, especially those who have gone through menopause.
Breast calcifications appear in about 50 percent of all mammograms in women over age 50 and in about one in 10 mammograms in women under 50.
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:
- noncancerous change in your breast, such as a fibroadenoma or breast cyst
- injury to your breast
- breast implants
- cancerous and noncancerous breast lesions
Types of breast calcifications
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 aa a large round shape. They may have the appearance of dashes 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 three categories by the radiologist, which may appear on your mammogram report:
- probably benign
Any pattern that’s 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 six to 12 months is a 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
Getting a second opinion
No one knows your body better than you. It’s always okay to get a second opinion, regardless of the type of calcification seen on your mammogram. You should get a second opinion if your mammogram shows microcalcifications, since this type can signal cancer.
If your doctor thinks your breast calcifications are cancerous, a second opinion is important. 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.
Your doctor will be on board with whatever your decision is concerning your medical diagnosis. It’s important to talk to them. Your doctor will make a note of any breast calcifications that show up on your mammogram. They may also recommend you get a second opinion, especially if you’ve had cancer or have a family history of cancer.
Follow-up and additional tests
Whether you decide to get a second opinion, your doctor may still encourage you to come back in six months for a follow-up. They will want to see 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 and talk about treatment options.
Your doctor can give you copies or transfer 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 a mammogram using what’s called a “full-field digital mammogram.” It provides the same results, but makes it much easier to see the microcalcifications clearly.
Insurance and common questions
Check with your insurance 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 other appointments.
If your second opinion differs from the first, it’s important to understand the differences. Mistakes are possible, but your breast calcifications may have changed. It’s also possible that certain things or areas were not clearly visible on your original mammogram.
Feel comfortable asking your doctor questions. Make sure to get your annual mammogram and follow your doctor’s instructions. Breast calcifications in women generally aren’t a reason to be concerned, but you should understand hidden dangers. Remember the importance 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.