Bilateral calcifications in the breasts

Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR
Last Modified: December 30, 2001


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My wife is a youthful 47. Nine years ago, a microcalcification showed up on a mammogram. The needle biopsy did not find a cancer. This past November, my wife had her annual mammogram at a new imaging facility. The findings showed bilateral calcification and she is to return tomorrow for a follow up mammogram. My question is this: Does a previous nonmalignant calcification put her at risk for breast cancer? Since she has yearly mammograms, is this new finding indicative of aging or of cancer?

Thank you for your response.



Lawrence J. Solin, MD, FACR, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Mammographic calcifications are generally classified as either benign or malignant. Both patients and physicians are, of course, mainly concerned with calcifications that appear malignant or that have a chance of being malignant. Such malignant-appearing calcifications require a biopsy for diagnosis. However, sometimes the radiologist cannot make a clear determination as to whether some calcifications are benign or malignant. Then additional mammograms are obtained to get a clearer picture. These additional mammograms usually magnify the area in question to make the images easier to interpret. The history of prior benign calcifications in the breast does not change the interpretation of a current set of mammograms, except in the uncommon situation that the scarring from the prior surgery causes benign calcifications from the healing process.