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The deposition of calcium mineral in breasts is a phenomenon referred to as breast calcification. Though it is common in women of almost all ages, but calcium deposits in breast are most commonly experienced after menopause. These breast calcifications can either be microcalcification or macrocalcification. In the former case, calcium deposits in breast are seen as small white dots of varying sizes. Whereas, in the later case, bigger single dot or dots of calcium deposits are seen in the breast. In rare cases these deposits can become cancerous at a stage.
- Calcium deposits in breast are actually the clusters formed by the clumping up of calcium phosphate and collagen, an insoluble protein found in tissues. These clumps can appear in hips, shoulders, hands and other body parts apart from breast. Formation of calcium deposits in breast is actually a result of degeneration process resulting from aging, inflammation of breast, or breast injury.
- Moreover, calcium deposits can also grow on foreign bodies present in breast e.g. stitches or breast implants.
- Similarly, calcium deposits in breast can also grow on fibroadenomas. These are harmless, benign growths in mammary glands triggered by dipping hormone levels during menopause.
- Calcium may also develop on breast cysts which are oval or round fluid filled masses more common in women within age group of 30 to 40. These are benign and automatically go away as menopause sets off. However, if they do not go away after menopause, there are chances that calcium deposits would accumulate on these cysts.
- Mammary glands ectasia is another medical condition whereby the milk ducts in breast are affected, resulting in blockage of nipples with milk and calcium deposits start accumulating on them after years of blockage.
Since, calcium deposits appear as very small dots, it may not be easy to point them out during a physical examination by your physician. So, mammography or breast X-ray is usually relied upon. It involves detailed study of shape, size and patterns of calcium deposits by radiologist. Furthermore, biopsy is used for further in-depth analysis whereby a part of affected tissue is removed and studied to find out whether it is a benign or malignant condition. A biopsy can either be needle core biopsy whereby the tissues for examination are removed with the help of a needle or it can be surgical which involves inserting a wire in breast to remove the tissues for examination. In both cases, local anesthesia is used.
If calcium deposits in breast have developed on fibroadenomas, there wouldn’t be the need of any treatment as the deposits would disappear with time. If calcifications have developed on breast cysts and it has become painful, the commonly used treatment is to drain out the fluid from cysts to give relief from pain. For breast calcifications due to mammary gland ectasia, treatment involves surgery.
Whatever the cause is, normally, calcium deposits in breast do not grow malignant. There are only rare cases, about 15 to 20% where calcifications can become malignant. So there is no need to panic if you have developed calcium deposits in breast. What you need to do is to only follow the instructions of your physician strictly. In malignant cases, there would be a regular examination after every six months for the first year. It mostly involves mammography to find out the progress. If there isn’t any progress in growth of deposits, examination would be done once in a year.
There are a few misconceptions about development of calcium deposits in breast. E.g. it is said to be caused by increased intake of calcium. However, it is not true. Similarly, many people believe it to be caused by hormone replacement therapy after menopause. But this concept too yet needs to be proved through research.