Several conditions cause deposits of calcium to form in the breast. These deposits can be detected with mammograms.
There are two patterns of calcification:
These are large and usually few in number. They generally go along with noncancerous processes. These include lactation (milk production), inflammation, and aging.
These are small and clustered. They are sometimes seen in areas of rapid tissue growth. Having them may lead to a suspicion of cancer.
A breast biopsy will be recommended if a suspicious area is seen.
Some patterns are not easy to classify. We call these indeterminate. In this case, the doctor will consider the patient's age and family history to determine the best course of action. If the risk of cancer is low, a repeat mammogram will be scheduled for a later date to monitor for changes.