For Caregivingmom: Questions About Breast Cancer

>> Sunday, April 5, 2009

Breast exams can’t catch microcalcificationsCaregivingdaughter asked: Exactly what are calcifications? What causes them? Why would I have them in one breast and not the other? Does having them increase my changes for developing breast cancer?

I’m not an expert on breast cancer nor do I have any personal experience, but I think it’s an important topic, get my own mammograms (yearly now, *sigh*) and want to help make sure every woman who needs one can get one. I do know people who have lost people to this disease. It’s heartbreaking.

I did some searching and here’s what I found. This description from National Cancer Institute tells me quite a bit.

calcification (KAL-sih-fih-KAY-shun)
Deposits of calcium in the tissues. Calcification in the breast can be seen on a mammogram, but cannot be detected by touch. There are two types of breast calcification, macrocalcification and microcalcification. Macrocalcifications are large deposits and are usually not related to cancer. Microcalcifications are specks of calcium that may be found in an area of rapidly dividing cells. Many microcalcifications clustered together may be a sign of cancer.

What this says to me (and I am not an expert) is not that some sorts of calcifications in the breast does not cause cancer but may be an very early indication of cancer. I presume that the macrocalcifications are likely the result of elevated calcium levels in the blood. Microcalcifications, little deposits, may be an very early indicator of a particular form of cancer.

I went trolling further. According to this site , microcalcifications are an early indicator, but they’re looking for clusters rather than a scattering. Probably that’s why they told you not to worry. Apparently (based on the information on this other site ), the pattern and grouping of microcalcifications is key to how much risk of cancer exists.

However, I would not take my uneducated word on this. If you have concerns or questions, ask your doctor and get the real story. There may be a perfectly good reason why you shouldn’t be concerned but remain aware. In the end, it’s best to understand why they feel as they do about it. In the end, though, it’s your body and you’re entitled to know if there’s something wrong.

Stay informed and take whatever tests may be necessary to catch anything early. The form of cancer associated with clusters of microcalcifications has a high cure rate if caught early.

5 Responses to “Questions about Breast Cancer”

  1. makemelaughon 30 Mar 2009 at 6:10 am edit this

    Calcifications are a by-prodcut of increased cell division of death. New, clustered-formation, microcalcifications are suspicious for a new process in the breast which can range from atypical ductal hyperplasia, to DCIS, to LCIS, to invasive cancer. Nonetheless, there is NO way to determine if calcifications are cancerous without a biopsy. Biospy is the “gold-standard” when dealing with calcifications of the breast. I have a general overview of this subject at:

    take care

  2. stephanieebarron 30 Mar 2009 at 6:59 am edit this

    One of the coolest side effects to starting this blog is the number of other folks who have chimed in with other ideas, options, data or resources in answer to the questions. I have learned a great deal and I know it’s helped those asking questions. Thank you, makemelaugh.

  3. caregivingdaughteron 30 Mar 2009 at 11:14 am edit this

    Stephanie - Thanks so much for posting my question and providing more information. I think the most important thing I learned is that it is important to have a mammogram even if you do not feel a lump. Now that they have a record of my exam, they will have something to compare it to and to see if there are any changes. My mammogram was digital which is also supposed to help them see more. I will definitely go back every year!

  4. attygnorrison 30 Mar 2009 at 4:56 pm edit this

    I’m scared of breast cancer… runs in my mother’s side of the family. My doctor performed a breast exam and scheduled me for a mammogram because she said the tissue was too thick to actually tell whether there were lumps (36H has something to do with that, I guess). Well, I canceled the mammogram. I just can’t do it yet. Maybe after I’m done having children. I just don’t want to deal with it right now. Somehow avoidance makes me feel better… temporarily.


    I told my husband that I wanted to be away for a weekend. I just wanted to run away. I didn’t want to be around him or my daughter. I LOVE THEM BOTH MORE THAN ANYTHING… I just wanted to be by myself. Honestly, a few times I thought I may not return. :( He basically said H-no! I could go away for a few hours, but a weekend was out of the question. I now see his point. I wonder if something’s wrong with me. The house is clean, breakfast/lunch/dinner are always ready, my business affairs are in order, my physical appearance is well-kept and so is my daughter’s, I take good care of her and him–is it normal to want to leave them both??? Normal or not, what should I do about it? I have a good life. What’s wrong with me?!


  5. stephanieebarron 30 Mar 2009 at 6:31 pm edit this

    Oh, Davida, don’t put it off. Catching anything early is your best chance to beat it. Seriously! And there’s something to be said for getting it behind you (likely hearing there’s nothing wrong).

    I’ll get on your question tonight!


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