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All TopicsForum: Not Diagnosed but Worried → Topic: Cluster of microcalcifications

Topic: Cluster of microcalcifications

Forum: Not Diagnosed but Worried — Meet others worried about developing breast cancer for the first time.

Posted on: Mar 14, 2012 08:11AM

lisa71971 wrote:

Hi I posted earlier about these and I am wondering, can a woman just get her breast removed if she gets these clusters all the time? I mean I hear they may lead to cancer and my guessing is as a woman ages, the more than likely will. 

I have my follow up mammogram on Monday, I of course am hoping for the best!!

I am such a worrier that I just would rather have it removed.

Thanks for your replies! 

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Posts 1 - 9 (9 total)

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Mar 14, 2012 08:45AM Mallory107 wrote:

I have had these micorcalcs in my right breast since about 40 yo. (45 yo now) Once discovered I went back every 6 months for diagnostic mammos.  For 2 years these never changed so they said I could go back to yearly.  Well, stupid me goes and skips a year.  When I finally got my mammo the right calcs were still the same but the left breast, which was always clear, was full of them!  And they were different from the get-go.  They were rod shaped whereas the right breast ones were just dots.  Ended up that I had DCIS with a mm of invasive-a very early stage cancer.  Got a MX because there was too large of a section.  Now a couple months after the MX I have decided to get the other side removed-for peace of mind and to reduce the risk of a new cancer.  I have to admit I am nervous to see if the pathology on that breast will reveal that these calcs we were watching were actually bad. 

So I guess that my advice would be to not get a MX just based on the calcs.  Just keep a CLOSE eye on them and never skip your mammo!  If you do this you will most likely catch the kind of cancer that these calcs reveal early.  Now if you have close family members with BC that is a different story-I think that makes more of a case for you to do the PMX.  MX is a major surgery and you really stand a chance of complications that will make for a lifetime of discomfort.  That is not the case for me but it is for many.

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Mar 14, 2012 08:57AM cycle-path wrote:

"can a woman just get her breast removed if she gets these clusters all the time?"

It's entirely likely you can find a doctor who'll give you a prophylactic MX and if your insurance won't pay (I think they often will, though) you can pay for it yourself.

It's a big decision, though, and one that shouldn't be entered into lightly. There are some great posts here about the pros and cons of MXs. You might want to search for those and give them a careful read. 

I am an Uppity Woman. Don't like my posts? Put me on IGNORE.

Dx 12/10/2010, DCIS, 1cm, Stage 0, Grade 2, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+
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Mar 14, 2012 09:24AM lisa71971 wrote:

Thanks for your replies. I would probably do it in a heart beat I have a 20 year old daughter and a 4 year old daughter that needs me to be here for as long as I can!!

What is a prophylactic MX?

~Lisa

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Mar 14, 2012 09:41AM desertstorm2014 wrote:

Mallory - thanks for sharing your story, I will remember it when I'm tempted to skip my next appt. Ugh, so sorry this happened to you. 

Lisa, here's a great site on calcs:

http://www.radiologyassistant.nl/en/4793bfde0ed53

Hope your follow up Monday goes well! 

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Mar 14, 2012 09:46AM, edited Mar 14, 2012 01:45PM by Beesie

Calcifications DO NOT lead to cancer.  The majority of women get calcifications at some point in thie lives.  Most calcifications - over 95%, I believe, are benign and harmless.  Here is a good explanation of calcifications:

The calcifications are tiny deposits of calcium within breast tissue that are visible on mammograms. They're a very common finding, tend to become more common as women get older, and are described as two basic types. Macrocalcifications, which look like large white dots on a mammogram, are probably due to aging of the breast arteries, old injuries, or inflammation. Since they're associated with noncancerous conditions, they don't require additional testing such as a biopsy. The other type, microcalcifications, show up as tiny white dots. Most of these are also benign, but their size, shape, and pattern may indicate tumor growth, and require further testing (a follow-up mammogram or a biopsy) to rule out cancer. Even when microcalcifications are deemed "suspicious," most turn out to be benign.

Here are some of the many causes of benign breast calcifications:

  • Calcium within the fluid of a benign cyst (this is called "milk of calcium").
  • Calcifications associated with a dilated milk duct.
  • An old injury to the breast.
  • Inflammation due to infection.
  • Skin calcifications caused by dermatitis (a rash) or metallic residues from powder, deodorants or ointments.
  • Prior radiation therapy for breast cancer.
  • Calcification of the arteries.
  • Calcifications in a noncancerous growth called a fibroadenoma.

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400631/What-Causes-Breast-Calcifications.html 

While calcifications do not lead to breast cancer, the presence of calcifications can be a sign of breast cancer.  But here's the important thing to understand:  Calcifications that are benign will never develop to become cancerous. When calcs are a sign of breast cancer, those calcs are BC right from the start.

The challenge for radiologists is knowing which calcs are benign and which are cancer. The first step is to see how they look on the film - how large are they and what is the pattern? Sometimes it's clear that the calcs do not in any way fit the profile of cancerous calcs.  But sometimes it's difficult to tell. These are called "suspicious calcifications" and for these, a biopsy is done. In the end about 80% of these suspicious calcs are discovered to be benign and harmless. Sometimes calcs fall in the middle.  They aren't clearly benign but they don't really look suspicious.  These usually get the 6 month follow-up.  What the radiologist is looking for is stability.  If in 6 months there are no more calcs and the pattern hasn't become more concerning, then the odds are very high that these are benign.  But if more calcs have developed and the pattern has changed to become more concerning, then a biopsy is done.  It's because of these 6 month follow-ups that people think that calcs can become cancerous over time.  But that's not what happens. The radiologist is not checking to see if the calcs develop into cancer; the radiologist is checking to see if more calcs show up indicating that they are there because of the presence of cancer. 

I'm not sure if any of this makes sense.  Basically what I'm saying however is that having benign calcs does not mean that you will develop cancer - benign calcs will not become cancerous.   The main concern for someone with benign calcs is ensuring that they are properly screened so that if new calcs develop (which might be benign or might be a sign of cancer), the pattern of the new calcs can be identified. 

A prophylactic MX is a mastectomy that is done for preventative reasons, when no cancer is present.  

Edited for typos only. 

Dx 9/15/05, DCIS-MI, 6cm+ Gr3 DCIS w/IDC microinvasion, Stage I, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR- “No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Edmund Burke

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Mar 14, 2012 01:28PM lisa71971 wrote:

Wow thanks Beesie!! That is the best information so far on calcifications.

So do you think Mastitis could be considered an old injury to the breast? I had mastitis in that breast 4 years ago after I breast fed my daughter for a week.

Thanks SOOOOO much for that information!!

~Lisa

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Mar 14, 2012 01:55PM Beesie wrote:

Yes!  Mastitis can lead to the development of calcifcations.

"A particular breast infection, mastitis, can cause breast calcifications. Mastitis commonly affects women who are breast-feeding within the first three months of giving birth. Women who have mastitis can have swelling, redness and warmer breasts, as well as a fever and chills. While mastatis can become uncomfortable, it does not interfere with breast-feeding."    http://www.livestrong.com/article/182850-causes-of-breast-calcification/

"Common reasons leading to their appearance in breast tissue and on mammograms include the following: .....

  • Remnants from previous infection or inflammation of the breast (mastitis)"
http://health.msn.com/health-topics/breast-cancer/breast-calcifications

Dx 9/15/05, DCIS-MI, 6cm+ Gr3 DCIS w/IDC microinvasion, Stage I, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR- “No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Edmund Burke

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Mar 14, 2012 02:28PM lisa71971 wrote:

But does it cause clusters? My report says that the cluster is in the posterior third of the right breast..I have no idea where that would be..my mastitis was on the outside of my right breast sort of in the middle to lower...I guess I can look that up on the internet to find out where that might be.. 

I have the report if I tell you what it says do you think you could help me decipher it? Do you think I could call the radiologist to get a better idea? 

Thanks so much! Smile

~Lisa

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Mar 14, 2012 03:05PM, edited Mar 14, 2012 03:06PM by Beesie

Lisa, now your questions are going well beyond my abilities as a lay-person who's simply read a lot about breast cancer and hung out here for 6 years, seeing all sorts of things! Would your radiologist talk to you?  Often they don't talk to patients; they leave the discussions to the patient's own doctors.  If he or she will speak to you, you might get your questions answered.  What doctor did you see about the mastitis and who are you seeing about the calcifications? That's someone else who might be able to help.

Dx 9/15/05, DCIS-MI, 6cm+ Gr3 DCIS w/IDC microinvasion, Stage I, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR- “No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Edmund Burke