Breast calcifications: Are they breast cancer?

content provided by

Breast calcifications: Are they breast cancer?


What causes breast calcifications? Are they associated with breast cancer?



Breast calcifications are tiny calcium deposits within the breast tissue that appear as white spots on a mammogram. Breast calcifications are common. Many women have at least one calcification that can be seen on a mammogram. Although breast calcifications are usually noncancerous (benign), certain patterns of calcifications — such as tight clusters with irregular shapes — may indicate breast cancer.

The two main types of breast calcifications are:

  • Macrocalcifications. They appear as large white dots or dashes on a mammogram. Macrocalcifications are almost always noncancerous and require no further follow-up.
  • Microcalcifications. They appear as very fine white specks on a mammogram. Microcalcifications are usually noncancerous but can sometimes be a sign of cancer. The radiologist will look at the size, shape and pattern of the microcalcifications. If they appear suspicious, additional mammograms and a biopsy may be needed.

Noncancerous causes of breast calcifications include:

  • Calcium within the fluid of a noncancerous cyst (milk of calcium)
  • Calcifications associated with a dilated milk duct
  • Previous injury to the breast (post-traumatic fat necrosis calcification)
  • Inflammation due to infection (mastitis)
  • Skin (dermal) calcifications such as caused by dermatitis or residue from metallic particles in powders, ointments and deodorants
  • Radiation therapy for breast cancer
  • Calcification of the arteries (vascular calcifications)
  • Calcifications in a fibroadenoma, a noncancerous growth

Breast calcifications on mammogram

Image of breast calcifications on mammogram

Calcifications are small calcium deposits in the breast that show up as white spots on a mammogram. Large, round, well-defined calcifications (left column) are more likely to be noncancerous (benign). Tight clusters of tiny, irregularly shaped calcifications (right column) may indicate cancer.

Last Updated: 08/10/2006
© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Terms and conditions of use


Bookmark and Share   E-Mail Page   Printer Friendly Version