Mineral calcium tends to get deposited in the breast tissues and is known as breast calcifications. It is quite a common occurrence in women particularly after menopause. It has two different forms – macrocalcification and microcalcification. In macrocalcification, the calcium deposits appear as single dots which are quite large in size. In microcalcification, it looks like minute white specks of various sizes and shapes. It is only in rare cases these deposits get clustered up and turn cancerous at a later stage.
Basically, calcium deposits occur when crystals of calcium phosphate and collagen, a type of insoluble proteins present in tissues clump up together. It can be found not just in breasts but also in other parts of the body like hips, shoulders, and hands.
Calcium deposits in breast are a part of the degeneration process that may be triggered by aging, injury or inflammation in the breasts.
If there are foreign bodies like breast implants or stitches present in the breasts, deposition of calcium occur on them.
Fibroadenomas are harmless noncancerous growths in the mammary glands. It is believed that they are formed due to decrease in the levels of hormones in the menopausal phase. Calcium deposits may occur on these benign growths.
Breast cysts are round or oval-shaped fluid filled sacs which are benign in nature. These cysts develop when a woman is in her 30s or 40s and disappear after menopause. If the cysts continue to exist even after that, calcium deposits may form on them.
Mammary duct ectasia is a problem associated with milk duct where the nipple gets blocked with milk and leads to breast calcifications. In some cases, it has been found that the duct had got blocked with milk several years ago.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Usually, the deposits occupy a very small area. So, the tiny spots cannot be felt by you or even your doctor during physical examination of the breast. They are detected on breast x-rays or mammograms as small white spots. The shape, size and pattern of these spots are carefully studied by the radiologist for diagnosing the problem. It is further confirmed with the help of biopsy which involves removal of a part of the affected tissue to analyze whether the condition is malignant or not. One form of biopsy is needle core biopsy where a needle is used to collect the samples. The other one is known as surgical biopsy where a wire is inserted into the area to remove breast tissue. Both the tests are done under local anesthesia.
- Calcifications on fibroadenomas do not require any treatment and the spots disappear on their own.
- If the breast cyst becomes painful due to calcification, draining out the fluid from it often provides relief to the patient.
- For mammary duct ectasia, surgical intervention is often required.
- Hardly, about 15-20 percent of the cases become malignant. Therefore, those of you who have this problem, should not get panicked unnecessarily. Rather, follow the instructions provided by your doctor. In malignant cases, close monitoring of the condition is advisable. In the first one year of detection, follow-up diagnostic mammogram is required after every six months. If no changes are found, then it would be monitored once a year.
There is a misconception among some people that this condition is caused due to the intake of high amount of calcium. However, it is far from the truth and there is no connection between them. It is often being said that post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy may lead to this problem. However, so far, there is no such evidence to support this concept.