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Here’s What You Need to Know About Breast Calcifications Following Breast Cancer Surgery

Navigating Treatment

February 26, 2024

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Photography by FG Trade/Getty Images

Photography by FG Trade/Getty Images

by Nandini Maharaj


Medically Reviewed by:

Elizabeth Berger, MD, MS


by Nandini Maharaj


Medically Reviewed by:

Elizabeth Berger, MD, MS


Breast calcifications are calcium deposits in the breasts due to aging, injury, or previous surgery. They may also be an early sign of cancer. Here’s how to monitor changes.

Breast calcifications are calcium deposits in the breast tissue, but you won’t find them during a self-monitoring exam.

In some cases, they may result from the typical aging process, previous breast cancer treatment, or an injury. In other cases, they may indicate an underlying cancer development.

Read on to learn what to do if you have breast calcifications, plus the different types, causes, and treatments.

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What are breast calcifications?

According to, calcifications can’t develop into breast cancer. However, calcifications can be a marker of underlying cancer development. They have several causes, including the typical aging process, injury, or infection.

Other times, breast calcifications can develop because of tissue damage or scarring following treatment for breast cancer, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or breast reconstruction.

Breast calcifications may be due to cancer, but they may also appear as a result of treatment for cancer or another cause like scarring from a car accident.

Mammograms are often the best choice of imaging. for calcifications. They may look like tiny white spots or flecks. Most breast calcifications are not associated with cancer.

However, if any breast calcifications have an irregular shape, size, or pattern, your doctor will recommend additional testing or more frequent checkups to monitor changes.

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Types of breast cancer calcifications

There are two types of breast calcifications:

Macrocalcifications (larger than 0.5 millimeters) look like large white dots or dashes on a mammogram.

Microcalcifications (smaller than 0.5 millimeters) appear as tiny white dots that resemble a grain of salt.

Breast calcifications, rarely, if ever, cause symptoms. They are usually seen via imaging.

If you do experience symptoms, they could be the result of breast cancer treatment or an underlying condition.

When do I need a mammogram after breast cancer surgery?

Following breast cancer treatment, the doctor may recommend that you have an annual mammogram, starting at 6–12 months after surgery or radiation. One exception is if you’ve had both breasts removed, in which case regular mammograms likely won’t be needed.

Getting a mammogram can show if you have breast calcifications or calcium deposits in breast tissue. Breast calcifications are fairly common, especially among women who have gone through menopause and those older than 50.

You may also need an ultrasound of the breasts.

Your doctor’s recommendations, including imaging and timing, may depend on the type of surgery you’ve had.

Breast-conserving surgery

Breast-conserving surgery involves removing the cancer, lymph nodes, and some healthy tissue while preserving as much healthy breast tissue as possible. Examples of breast-conserving surgery are lumpectomy and partial mastectomy.

If you’ve had breast-conserving surgery, it’s a good idea to get a mammogram on both breasts, including the treated breast.


Another common type of surgery is mastectomy, which involves removing the breast and, sometimes, the lymph nodes. Mastectomy may be recommended for several reasons.

These can include:

  • if the tumor to breast size ratio doesn’t allow for an optimal post-srugery cosmetic result
  • radiation is not advised
  • if the tumor affects more than one area of your breast

If you’ve had a mastectomy on one breast, you likely won’t need a mammogram of the treated breast.

However, you’ll need a mammogram on the other breast since there’s a higher risk of developing breast cancer a second time if you’ve already had it in one breast.

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What are the causes of breast calcification?

Breast calcifications aren’t a function of your daily calcium intake. Instead, calcium is produced when breast cells grow and divide.

In an area where there’s more cell growth and division, there tend to be more calcium deposits. Sometimes, these calcium deposits can develop into microcalcifications that appear on their own or cluster together in a particular area of the breast.

Finding a cluster doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but it’s important to rule it out since it can be an early sign.

In other cases, calcium deposits can develop into macrocalcifications, which typically have benign (i.e., not caused by cancer itself) causes such as:

  • previous radiation therapy
  • surgery for breast cancer
  • injury to breast tissue
  • infection in breast tissue
  • noncancerous growths, like cysts
  • aging or hardening of the arteries
  • noncancerous lesions
  • breast implants

How are breast calcifications treated?

Although most breast calcifications aren’t cancerous, they can be a sign of changes in breast tissue that can become cancerous.

According to a 2022 review, microcalcifications are commonly associated with premalignant and malignant lesions in breast tissue. Malignant means cancer is present, and premalignant means precancerous.

Macrocalcifications are easier to identify on a mammogram and don’t usually require treatment. The doctor may recommend regular mammograms to monitor changes in macrocalcifications.

With microcalcifications, your doctor will examine the size, shape, and pattern of the calcifications. They’ll look for any irregular shapes or clusters in a particular location.

If any microcalcifications look suspicious, the doctor may have you come back in 6 months for a follow-up mammogram. They may recommend a biopsy to determine if the calcifications are cancerous.

If breast calcifications are non-malignant, they do not need to be removed. However, if the calcifications are the result of cancerous or precancerous cells growing or multiplying, then these breast cells would be removed.

Treatment will depend on your diagnosis. You may find it helpful to seek a second opinion with a doctor or radiologist who specializes in breast cancer treatment.

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Frequently asked questions

Read on to get answers to common questions about breast calcifications.

Should I worry about calcifications in my breast?

Breast calcifications are common after age 50 and are not usually associated with cancer. However, they can be an early sign of breast cancer, particularly when they have an irregular shape or cluster together tightly.

What percentage of breast calcifications become cancerous?

According to a 2018 study, breast calcifications become cancerous in 12–40% of women. For some people, breast calcifications are the only sign of breast cancer.

What stage of breast cancer is calcifications?

Some breast calcifications may be considered stage 0 cancer, meaning they’re limited to the inside of the milk duct and haven’t spread to nearby tissues. This type of calcification is often benign but can be a sign of cancerous or precancerous cells.

Other breast calcifications may be invasive cancer and require treatment.

What is the treatment for breast calcification?

Benign breast calcifications likely don’t need to be removed. If they have suspicious features, the doctor will recommend additional testing, such as a follow-up mammogram or biopsy. Sometimes they will require a biopsy and can still be benign.


Breast calcifications are calcium deposits, often the result of noncancerous changes in breast tissue. They look like white spots on a mammogram and don’t usually cause any symptoms.

It’s wise to monitor breast calcifications since they can be an early sign of cancer. Your doctor may recommend additional tests on any suspicious shapes or patterns of breast calcifications.

Medically reviewed on February 26, 2024

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About the author

Nandini Maharaj

Nandini Maharaj, PhD is a freelance writer covering health, work, identity, and relationships. She holds a master’s degree in counseling and a PhD in public health. She’s committed to providing thoughtful analysis and engaging wellness content. Her work has appeared in HuffPost, American Kennel Club, Animal Wellness, Introvert, Dear, and POPSUGAR. She is a dog mom to Dally, Rusty, and Frankie. Find her on Twitter or her website.

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