Healthy Living: Mammograms to detect calcifications
A mammogram is a great screening tool for breast cancer, but it often detects other issues. Marcie Fraser explains.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
Mammograms are often the first diagnostic tool that detects benign lumps in the breast, cancerous tumors, and sometimes calcifications.
"Calcifications within the breast can represent degenerative tissue, fibrocystic changes and a number of entities that are benign and non-proliferative and do not demonstrate any increased risk," said Dr. Arvind Mahatme, a surgical oncologist.
Calcifications are evidence that tissue has broken down. It has the appearance similar of tiny stars.
"It's almost the body’s signature that tissue maybe breaks down, leaves a little signature behind, like a grains of sand left behind."
When is there concern? When a cluster of calcifications suddenly appears. A key element is how the calcifications line up. Is there is a pattern?
"Are they all together kind of forming a little grouping or are they individualized in different parts of the breast or a linear patterns that is concerning for a inter-ductal tumor and deemed to have a high likely hood of being cancer," said Dr. Mahatme.
For many women who have calcifications, doctors may wait six months and repeat the mammogram. If a pattern does develop, action like a biopsy may be done.
For most women, especially older women, calcifications are common and often don't warrant any immediate action.
"Calcifications, if you look at the data, eight out of 10 times will be benign but that number fluctuates depending on the look of it," said Dr. Mahatme.