Breast calcifications are calcium deposits within breast tissue. They appear as white spots or flecks on a mammogram but can't be felt during a breast exam.

Breast calcifications are common on mammograms, and they're especially prevalent after menopause. Although breast calcifications are usually noncancerous (benign), certain patterns of calcifications — such as tight clusters with irregular shapes — may indicate breast cancer or precancerous changes to breast tissue.

On a mammogram, breast calcifications can appear as macrocalcifications or microcalcifications.

  • Macrocalcifications. These show up as large white dots or dashes. They're almost always noncancerous and require no further testing or follow-up.
  • Microcalcifications. These show up as fine, white specks, similar to grains of salt. They're usually noncancerous, but certain patterns can be an early sign of cancer.

If breast calcifications appear suspicious on your initial mammogram, you will be called back for additional magnification views to get a closer look at the calcifications. If the second mammogram is still worrisome for cancer, your doctor may recommend a breast biopsy to know for sure.

Feb. 02, 2016