Ask the doctor: What are breast calcifications?

Q. What can you tell me about cluster calcifications in the breast?

A. Calcifications in breast tissue are common: about 50% of women over age 50 have them. They may be large (macrocalcifications); these are usually noncancerous (benign) and caused by damage to the breast—for example, from previous surgery, trauma, infection, or radiation. Or they may be very small flecks of calcium (microcalcifications) that, on a mammogram image, look like grains of salt on a sea of gray. About 80% of microcalcifications are benign; however, they are sometimes an indication of precancerous changes or cancer in the breast.

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