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Microcalcifications?

Wibby's picture
Wibby
Posts: 27
Joined: May 2008

I recently had my first mammogram since treatment - I had a mastectomy on my right breast with 2 small tumors (1 cm), one lymph node involved and numerous DCIS and then chemo. I jokingly asked the technician if I'd be charged half price - she said "Of course!" LOL Anyway, when she came back to tell me that the radiologist said that everything was fine, she said that I had numerous microcalcifications in my left breast. I thought that microcalcifications were "pre-cancerous." Does anyone have any information on this? Should I worry? Sometimes I wish I had had a bilateral mastectomy, but I didn't even know that was a possibility. Although I don't really want another mastectomy, I really really don't want to go through chemotherapy again! (But would do both in a heartbeat if it meant a longer life!)

phoenixrising's picture
phoenixrising
Posts: 1510
Joined: Feb 2007

Hi Wibby, welcome to the club you never wanted to join. All microcalcifications aren't cancer. It depends on the formation. The radiologist can tell whether it's anything to be concerned about or not. I had microcalcifications that were in such a formation that he knew right away it was cancer. I have it in the breast I have left and it's not cancer.
My doc also said she had it in her breasts, but it's not cancer. If it was they'd start talking to you about tx. So I wouldn't worry.

Let us know if you need any help, there are tons of wise women ready to share their wisdom and experience.

Good luck to you
jan

kevindee
Posts: 75
Joined: Sep 2008

hi wibby. i had 2 small ones in the left breast but i also had a lump. cancer. when they went in to do the masc. the dr found a 5x5 cm cluster that didnt show up on mamm or ultra sound. anyway stage 3, 8 node pos. her-2 pos. my friend called me a couple wks ago and was worried they did a mamm and found a mass of micros in her breast, did a biop. and everything was fine. its not uncomman they said for woman over 50 to have these. glad youre out of treatment. how long has it been? believe me if you have questions youve come to the right place to ask, these women are pretty smart. also read proverbs 3:5-6

cabbott
Posts: 1046
Joined: Aug 2006

Microcalcifications are just what they sound like: they are little tiny spots of calcium that can form in tissue. Calcium spots are much denser than soft tissues so they show up on tests like mammograms. Calcium spots can be either microcalcifications or macrocalcifications. One of my relatives had the macrocalcifications. Her regular radiologists didn't report the difference (maybe didn't know) and asked for a biopsy. When she went to a large teaching university clinic that specialized in breast cancer, she found out. Macrocalcifications form when you have arthritis of the breast. They do not indicate a possible problem with cancer and don't need to be biopsied. She still gets her mammogram, but she skipped getting a biopsy.

Microcalcifications don't always indicate a problem. If they appear all by themselves as a little spot, they are usually just harmless spots of calcium--no big deal. But microcalcifications are known to sometimes form around fast growing tissue--like cancer. If the calcifications form in a pattern that radiologists see often around cancer spots, the radiologists request a biopsy to make sure nothing is going on there. When they see little spots of calcifications, they may ask for a mammogram in another 6 months to see if things are changing. If there is only a spot or two here or there, they probably would do absolutely nothing because these spots are very common in perfectly normal breasts.

If you are concerned, you can go back and talk with the radiologists. You can also send your mammograms to a breast center to be read by a breast specialist. It is not good to miss cancer, but it is also not good to have biopsies and operations when you don't need them. The radiologists know your history and I know they would rather err on the side of being over-cautious and look for cancer when there was a chance things were normal than being careless and let things go too long without checking. But again, if it is keeping you up nights, it would certainly be understandable to send the films for another reading with a breast specialist. That is what my relative did and she was able to avoid an unnecessary biopsy. Good luck!

C. Abbott

CR1954's picture
CR1954
Posts: 1392
Joined: Jul 2008

Hi Wibby,

I had mastectomy in right breast, stage 2B. They also found microcalcifications in left breast through MRI. I had a biopsy done, and they were benign.
However, they scheduled another MRI for six months later to keep an eye on things. That is coming up in February.

Best wishes,

CR

phoenixrising's picture
phoenixrising
Posts: 1510
Joined: Feb 2007

I got a little confused when I read your post. I had an MRI done and at the bottom of the test results it stated that an MRI doesn't read microcalcifications. So I wondered if there was a different MRI than the one I had. I looked it up on:

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Detection/breast-cancer

and they state: Like ultrasound, MRI cannot detect microcalcifications.

Could you help me out cause I ran out and had a mammogram after reading that since my bc was determined through the microcalcifications and I need to monitor that.

Thanks a mill
jan

mgm42
Posts: 494
Joined: Nov 2007

I had invasive ductal carcinoma in my left breast (Stage 1C) and microcalcifications in the right breast, which was determined through my mammogram. My doctor said that microcalcifications were, generally, nothing to worry about. However, to be on the safe side, they would biopsy that breast. The microcalcifications were benign, as expected, but they used a new vacuum method for the biopsy and removed the calcifications at the same time. I'm glad they did. I believe in an ounce of prevention when possible. I don't know if this helps or confuses the issue for you. My best advice to you is to continue discussing this issue with your doctors. Good luck. Hugs, Marilynn

CR1954's picture
CR1954
Posts: 1392
Joined: Jul 2008

Hi Jan,

They did the MRI and told me that something suspicious showed up in the left breast. They then did an MRI guided biopsy and told me that it was microcalcifications and that everything was benign. They then placed a metal "marker" where they had done the biopsy and said that they wanted to do another MRI in 6 months to see if anything had changed in the area.

This was close to the chest wall, and I know that the facility that I go to has one of only four MRI breast coils in the country, that allow a good view of lesions which are close to the chest wall.

So, I am not sure...only going by what they told me at the time.

This did not show up on mammogram. But it did on MRI.

CR

phoenixrising's picture
phoenixrising
Posts: 1510
Joined: Feb 2007

That is so interesting, thanks for the info. I need to look into this more.
jan

la ribereña
Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2009

I had a biopsy in 2002 and they found microcalcifications. They said not to worry. In 2004 I was diagnosed with breast cancer (DCI) in the exact same place. I wish they had removed all the microcalcifications at the time of biopsy because I do believe they can be a precurser to BC.

Elizabeth

cabbott
Posts: 1046
Joined: Aug 2006

Calcium is a mineral. It is not tissue. Microcalcifications means tiny calcium deposits. The calcium forms around fast growing tissue. The calcifications are NOT cancer. But there may be cancer in the area. Doctors don't get worried about solitary calcifications. They are fairly normal occurances. That means that sometimes they miss a cancer when it may be there. When the calcifications kind of cluster together, they do worry and usually do find the cancer. The cancer cells often fill a duct (tube) in the breast, so a cluster means the cells are filling in that spot in the tube. I had a fairly normal looking solitary calcification that I talked to the radiologist about. She said it looked normal, not like the cluster that means danger. Six months later she called for a biopsy of the same spot. Radiologists since that looked at that film told me they would have never recommended biopsy at that time for what they saw. Mine too ended up being a very very small spot of ductal carcinoma (cancer) that was missed on the biopsy but some atypical hyperplasia (weird looking overgowth of cells) showed up which led to a lumpectomy to prove it wasn't cancer. But it was! So sometimes the solitary calcifications may be near a spot of cancer after all. The surgeon told me that it was so small that it probably wasn't causing all the problems that we normally associate with cancer. Because the radiologist was on her toes and looking (after I talked with her), I was operated on earlier than most women with similar films. Was that better? I bet most of us would answer emphatically "YES". But the research is beginning to show that our bodies often rid themselves of very small spots of cancer if their findings on tests are correct. Places where mammograms have just been introduced so that they can find cancer early are compared with the statistics from the same area of how many people were found with cancer using other means (like finding a lump) before the advent of sensitive tests. The conclusion the researchers made was that maybe our body sometimes gets rid of very small cancers before they cause problems. I must admit I wouldn't want to wait to see if it would resolve on its own if I knew it was there. That would be foolhardy knowing how deadly this stuff can be. But if you and your doctor have done your best to find cancer and they don't stop watching you when a microcalcification is pretty benign looking, you are being careful enough. Rest easy that if they are checking you every 6 months you are being as careful as the best research says you should be.

C. Abbott

Wibby's picture
Wibby
Posts: 27
Joined: May 2008

Thank you for the reassurance. I have also read the research about about our bodies being able to rid themselves of cancer and am intrigued by it. My dad died of lung cancer after being in remission from it for four years and six years after the original diagnosis. The doctors originally said that he should get his affairs in order. After radiation to slow the growth of the tumor (fist-sized), the tumor was gone. The radiological oncologist said that it was miraculous. My dad lived cancer free for the next four years!
However, like you, if I knew there were cancer in my other breast - even very tiny- I would want it removed. I am having an MRI on my left breast in Feb. and another mammogram in 6 months. After all the replies and information I have learned, I feel comfortable waiting. I'll put my knife away for now (just kidding!)
Thanks!
Libby

EveningStar2's picture
EveningStar2
Posts: 494
Joined: Jan 2009

Hi! I'm brand spanking new to this. I had mammo in sept that showed "calcs" and they wanted to biopsy then. I couldn't because I lost insurance but had a repeat mammo last monday, biopsy on wednesday, report of DCIS on thursday and I see the surgeon tomorrow. What a week.

Anyway, the radiologist walked into the room announced that it was benign and if he had read the mammo we would not be doing the biopsy. I said something to the effect that we were there, let's do it. It helps that I am an RN and am used to doctor's attitudes. So the point of the story is: be cautious and a second opinion may help.

Maureen

Wibby's picture
Wibby
Posts: 27
Joined: May 2008

Thanks, Maureen!
I'm sorry that you've got to go through this. It's not a great club to belong to.
I am definitely going to get another opinion when I go to my onc. in March. She may want me to have a biopsy depending on what the MRI shows next month. She is very thorough and conservative, so I trust her completely. I'm not as trusting of the radiologist who read my mammogram!

I'll be thinking of you next week when you meet with the surgeon. It's a scary journey, but one that is doable.
Good luck,
Libby

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