Breast calcifications are calcium deposits within breast tissue. They appear as white spots or flecks on a mammogram and are usually so small that you can't feel them.

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.

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 a sign of cancer.

If calcifications are suspicious, more testing may be necessary, including additional mammograms with magnification views or a breast biopsy.

Feb. 21, 2013