Calcium Deposits In Breast Ducts
Calcium deposits in breast ducts are known as Breast Ductal Calcifications and is basically caused by a build-up of calcium and phosphorous within the lumen of the ducts. When you observe, you may sometimes notice tiny lumps in the nipple area which has been described as an area that does not seem “even”. This lump can also be referred to as a heterogeneous (uneven) area. The location of the deposits is usually very near the surface of the skin and hence can easily be observed by jiggling your nipple with your finger or a needle. The vast majority of these deposits are benign and do not indicate any underlying disease or abnormalities.
What Are Breast Calcifications?
Breast calcifications are small clusters of calcium deposits that develop in breast tissue, most commonly in women over 50. They are painless so women don’t know they have them unless they are detected by a mammogram. They are too small to feel, but can show up on a mammogram as small, bright, white spots.
While calcifications are usually harmless, they can be a sign that a woman is at risk for developing breast cancer and needs more testing. For instance, if the cluster of calcifications is tight or they are noted to present as lines of tiny calcifications, the radiologist may recommend additional mammogram images for further testing. The patient can talk to her doctor to learn more about her specific situation.
Symptoms And Causes
What Causes Breast Calcifications?
It is not known what causes calcifications to develop in breast tissue, but they are not caused by eating too much calcium or taking too many calcium supplements.
They are seen on mammograms of about half of all women over age 50. However, they also are seen in about 10 percent of mammograms on younger women. Women who have had breast surgery for any reason or who have injured their breasts, such as in a car accident, seem to be at higher risk for developing calcifications, as are women who have been treated for breast cancer in the past. Calcifications may also occur within vessels in the breast related to older age or from a past infection in the breast tissue.
What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Calcifications?
Most women who have breast calcifications do not have any symptoms. They typically only learn they have them from a routine mammogram.
Are There Different Types Of Breast Calcifications?
There are two types of breast calcification.
- Macrocalcifications: These appear as round and large bright white spots on a mammogram randomly scattered throughout the breast tissue. This is the most common type. They are typically not related to cancer and usually do not need follow up.
- Microcalcifications: These are smaller white spots on a mammogram. While these can be randomly scattered as well, they are sometimes grouped together and can be a sign of cancer. If your mammogram finds microcalcifications, your doctor will note any change in their appearance over time and probably order more tests.
Diagnosis And Tests
How Are Breast Calcifications Diagnosed?
There are a number of tests that your healthcare provider can order to learn more about breast calcifications that have been found on a routine screening mammogram. These can include:
- Diagnostic mammogram: This is a more detailed mammogram than one that is done for routine screening. Pictures of the affected part of your breast may be taken from many angles to give the radiologist a closer look. This is typically the first test a doctor would order to learn more about breast calcifications. If the calcifications are benign (not cancerous), or probably benign, it is likely that the concerning calcifications are not cancer.
- Ultrasound: This is a procedure in which sound waves are used to create a picture of the breast tissue. This is noninvasive and painless. This test is usually reserved only for calcifications associated with a mass seen on a mammogram.
- MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging is a more sophisticated test, using magnets and radio waves to get an even more detailed picture of the tissue. It is a painless procedure. This is not typically performed as a first-line test to evaluate calcifications. It is reserved for patients with new diagnosis of cancer to further evaluate the extent of disease.
- Ductography: This involves injecting a patient with dye to better visualize the tissue in the breast ducts. This test is only performed in patients presenting with new nipple discharge.
- Biopsy: This procedure involves using imaging to remove a small amount of breast tissue so that it can be examined by a pathologist. This can be done with a needle, or if the area that needs to be sampled is larger, a small surgical incision may be needed. Since breast calcifications are best noted on a mammogram, mammographic guidance is used for such a biopsy, which is called stereotactic biopsy of the breast.
Can A Mammogram Be Incorrect In Identifying Breast Calcifications?
Sometimes noncancerous lumps or cysts can be mistaken for calcifications on a mammogram, as can powders, creams or deodorants that are applied on skin near the breasts. That is why patients are asked to not wear deodorant to a mammogram, or to wipe it off before the test begins.
Management and Treatment
How Are Breast Calcifications Treated?
Most cases of breast calcification do not need to be treated. On any future mammograms, the radiologist can compare the images to previous ones to determine if they have changed.
If, however, one or more of the follow up tests indicate that the calcifications may be cancerous, your doctor will refer you to a doctor who specializes in cancer. The most common type of cancer to develop in conjunction with breast calcifications is ductal carcinoma in situ, often abbreviated DCIS.
As with all cancers, treatment options include closely watching the tissue to see if it changes over time, removing more of the breast tissue surgically, or undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. Each person’s decision about treatment needs to consider their own unique circumstances.
Can I Prevent Creast Calcifications?
Though breast calcifications cannot be prevented, early detection through a mammogram is important in treating any possible cancer that could develop.
Outlook / Prognosis
What Do I Need To Do In The Future If Breast Calcifications Are Found?
If breast calcifications are found during a mammogram, you may be referred to your doctor for further testing. It is important to continue routine mammograms as you age and keep discussing any concerns about breast calcifications with your doctor.
Calcinosis cutis is the deposit of calcium under the skin.This can happen anywhere on the body. One rare formTrusted Source of it can occur on the face or upper body after a case of acne.
The deposits usually show up as whitish bumps on the skin’s surface. They may have no other symptoms, or they may become tender and discharge a chalk-colored creamy material that’s mainly calcium.
Causes Of Calcinosis Cutis
The causes of calcinosis cutis are broken down into four major types:
- Dystrophic calcinosis cutis refers to calcium deposits that result from trauma, acne, varicose veins, infections, and connective tissue disease.
- Metastatic calcinosis cutis can be caused by hyperactive thyroid, an internal cancer, destructive bone disease, excessive vitamin D intake, sarcoidosis, and chronic renal failure.
- Iatrogenic calcinosis is the name for calcium deposits that result from a medical procedure such as calcium injections or repeated heel sticks (pricking the heel to draw blood) with newborns.
- Idiopathic calcinosis is the name given when there’s no known cause for the condition. It’s usually localized in one area.
Calcinosis Cutis Treatments
The treatment of calcinosis cutis depends on identifying the underlying cause. Once the underlying cause is addressed, your doctor may use medications to help relieve the symptoms. These can include corticosteroids (cortisone), magnesium supplements, and aluminum antacids, although these are generally of limited benefit.
Your doctor may recommend surgical removal of the calcinosis if it repeatedly becomes infected, is very painful, or restricts motion.
Your doctor may refer you to other specialists, including a nephrologist (kidney specialist), rheumatologist (musculoskeletal specialist), or hematologist (blood specialist).
Find out more about conventional and alternative treatments for calcinosis cutis.
Diagnosing Calcinosis Cutis
As calcinosis cutis is usually a symptom of some other condition, your doctor will take your medical history and perform tests to try to determine what that is. They’ll send blood samples to a laboratory for tests that can discover abnormalities in your metabolism that might be producing the excess calcium.
Your doctor may perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of calcinosis cutis. In a biopsy, they’ll administer an anesthetic and then remove a small portion of skin and the tissue below it.
In the rare case that the calcium deposit is in the face, your doctor will try to determine if you previously had acne.
If acne scars are visible, your doctor may perform a punch biopsy to examine skin below the surface layer for the presence of calcium. One reason for the test is to rule out connective tissue disease, which is more serious than a calcium deposit.
A punch biopsy is done in a doctor’s office or clinic using a small metal tube with sharpened edges. After the area is anesthetized and frozen to eliminate pain, your doctor will use the tube to remove the lower layers of skin tissue. In some cases, one or two stitches are needed to close the wound. The procedure takes 15 minutes.
Calcific tendonitis is the unwanted buildup of calcium deposits in your muscles or tendons. Although this can happen anywhere in the body, it’s most common in the rotator cuff of your shoulder. This condition may also be described as calcium deposits in the shoulder.
Calcific Tendonitis Symptoms
The main symptom is severe, sometimes disabling, pain. It can occur without any apparent cause, especially in the morning. It may be accompanied by stiffness and a frozen shoulder.
Among the possible causes of this condition are genetic predisposition, abnormal thyroid activity, and diabetes.
Calcific Tendonitis Treatments
Most cases of calcific tendonitis can be treated without surgery. Your doctor may recommend a course of physical therapy and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. If the pain and swelling are more severe, they may suggest that you have a corticosteroid (cortisone) injection given in the office.
Other nonsurgical procedures include:
- Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (EWST). Your doctor uses a handheld device to deliver small mechanical shocks to your shoulder. This treatment may be repeated once a week for three weeks.
- Radial shock wave therapy (RSWT). This is similar to EWST. Your doctor uses a handheld device to deliver medium-energy mechanical shocks.
- Therapeutic ultrasound. Your doctor uses a small device to direct a high-frequency sound wave to help break up the calcium deposit in your shoulder.
- Percutaneous needling. After you have local anesthesia, your doctor uses a needle guided by ultrasound to manually remove the calcium deposit from under your skin.
If surgery is needed, there are two choices:
- In open surgery, your doctor uses a scalpel to manually remove the calcium deposit in the shoulder.
- In arthroscopic surgery, your doctor makes a tiny incision and inserts a camera. The camera helps to guide a small surgical tool to remove the deposit.
Recovery depends on the size and number of calcium deposits. Some people return to normal motion within a week. Others may experience postsurgical pain for some time.
Breast calcifications are found in about 50 percent of women over age 50 and in 10 percent of younger women according to Harvard Medical School. Most of these are benign, but they may occur together with breast cancer. They’re usually only discovered from a mammogram, as they don’t cause symptoms.
Breast calcifications may form as the body’s response to an injury.
There doesn’t appear to be a connection to consumption of calcium supplements and these formations.
Diagnosing Breast Calcification
If calcium is detected in a mammogram, your radiologist and doctor will try to figure out if the calcification is benign or connected with a cancer.
The calcification can occur in the glands (lobules) and ducts where milk is produced and carried to the nipple. Calcium deposits in the lobules are almost always benign. But deposits in the ducts can occasionally be a sign of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a form of breast cancer.
If your doctor suspects even a chance of a malignancy, they’ll recommend a biopsy.
There are several types of breast biopsy:
A core biopsy is done with a hollow needle that’s injected into the breast, after local anesthesia. The sample is removed and examined under a microscope.
Stereotactic biopsy is a type of core biopsy that also uses a hollow needle to take a small sample from breast tissue. In this case, a stereoscopic X-ray is used to guide the needle. It’s also minimally invasive, only using a local anesthetic.
A vacuum-assisted biopsy is done using a mammogram or ultrasound to guide a probe. After local anesthesia, a hollow probe is inserted through a small incision in the skin. The collected sample is then examined under a microscope.
Wire localization is a technique for pinpointing the area to be removed for study. It’s more invasive than the other three methods and so is considered a surgery.
After a local anesthetic is given, a radiologist uses a mammogram or ultrasound to guide a fine wire into the breast. The wire is left in place until the suspect area of the breast can be surgically removed for examination under a microscope. The surgery usually takes place the same day or the day after. There may be some pain or discomfort while the wire is in place.
The follow-up surgery is done under a general or local anesthetic. You may feel some soreness after the operation.
Breast Calcification Treatment
Most tests and biopsies show that breast calcifications are benign. But the biopsy may indicate an early development stage of breast cancer. In that case, your doctors will discuss what it means and your treatment options.
Breast lumps should be investigated by your doctor regardless of what you think is the cause. If the benign calcification is interfering with your clothing or you have concerns, talk to your doctor about having it removed. This can usually be done in the doctor’s office or in an outpatient procedure facility.
Benign breast calcifications don’t increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Approximately 95 percentTrusted Source of women who have abnormalities show up in their mammograms don’t have breast cancer.
Cardiovascular calcification can accumulate in the deposits, or plaque, that may form after an injury to the wall of an artery or vein. This is known as calcified plaque.
The presence of calcified plaques increases the risk of coronary artery disease, a symptom of which is chest pain. Calcified plaque in the neck (carotid arteries) and spine (vertebral arteries) may contribute to your risk of having a stroke.
Cardiovascular Calcification Treatments
If you have arterial calcification, you’re more likely to develop heart disease.
If you develop chest pain, your doctor may request a coronary artery scan (also called a heart scan and a calcium scan) to see if excess calcium is present. This can help your doctor decide whether heart disease is the cause. The test is done with a CT scanner, a type of X-ray machine that produces a three-dimensional view.
Presence of calcium in your arteries isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. A heart specialist can discuss with you your total heart attack risk, whether you should consider a coronary artery scan for calcium, and what treatment is best for you.
There is some evidenceTrusted Source that taking supplemental vitamin K-2 could be a means of lowering calcium-associated health risks. Check with your doctor for the most current information on taking this supplement.
In the meantime, there are steps you can take right away until you see a doctor. Discover heart-healthy tips you can do daily at home.