Mammography is an x-ray examination of the breast. There are two types of mammography. Screening mammography detects breast disease in a woman who does not have any symptoms. Diagnostic mammography is used to help make a diagnosis in a woman who has breast complaints such as a lump or an abnormality that was discovered during a screening mammogram.
Calcification in the breast - what does it mean?
Non-cancerous causes of calcifications
There are many non-cancerous causes of calcium in the breast including:
Determining whether calcifications are cancerous
A mammogram can often accurately diagnose most calcium deposits as either cancerous or benign. The in-between varieties require additional mammograms, which are sometimes taken at different angles than the standard one, often with magnification.
Sometimes a technique called "spot compression" is used to squeeze only a part of the breast. Although spot compression is more uncomfortable than the full-breast device used for the routine pictures, the slightly greater discomfort is worth the greater detail that becomes visible on the mammogram.
If there is breast cancer, a calcification may occur along with a lump, or on its own which can be due to non-invasive "in situ" cancer. With this type of cancer, the cancer cells are located inside the milk duct - they have not yet invaded through the wall of the duct.
If the radiologist believes that the calcification is highly likely to be non-cancerous, a biopsy (removal of a tiny piece of tissue for examination) is usually not needed. However, follow-up mammograms are often recommended within six months to confirm that cancer is not present. If there is even a small chance that a cancer is present, the radiologist will recommend that some of the calcium be removed and checked by a needle biopsy or surgery.
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