Calcifications (calcium deposits) or microcalcifications (small calcium deposits) are the smallest particles visible on a mammogram. Calcifications are a normal occurrence in aging breast tissues, which have gone through changes such as cysts, injuries or mastitis (infection). However, they can also be a sign of cancer, so radiologists closely study the findings of microcalcifications found during mammography.
Clustered microcalcifications (four or more microcalcifications close together) would also require further evaluation. A finding of clustered calcium deposits, or calcifications that follow the path of a duct, would be examined closely by a radiologist, who would study their shape and placement. These calcium deposits are the smallest structure that mammography can visualize. Therefore, special close-up mammography views ¾ compression or magnifications ¾ will be taken to give the radiologist the best possible diagnostic picture. Calcifications associated with a malignancy have a pattern, with irregular shaped edges and an asymmetrical (do not look alike) shape. Often there will be a pattern of density (thickness of tissue) surrounding the calcifications on the mammogram. Sometimes the calcifications will take the shape of a duct, which will alert the radiologist to the possibility of intraductal disease.
After looking for any problems, the radiologist will make a recommendation regarding treatment. If the calcifications are suspicious, your physician may choose to wait for several months and re-examine with mammography to see if there are any changes in the area. Then, a biopsy can be performed to evaluate the breast.
Remember; do not wear any deodorant, powder or perfume on or near your breasts when you go for your mammogram. These may cause spots or shadows resembling microcalcifications to appear on your mammogram.