What is calcification in the breast?

Breast calcifications are small calcium deposits found in your breast tissue. It’s very common to develop these areas of calcium, especially as you age. Because calcifications in the breast can’t be felt, they’re usually found during a screening mammogram.

Most of the time, breast calcifications are harmless or benign. However, some calcifications can be a very early sign of breast cancer. Your care team will carefully examine any areas of breast calcification seen on your mammogram so you can have peace of mind about your breast health.

Types of calcifications:

  • Macrocalcifications

    Macrocalcifications show up on your mammogram images as more prominent white spots. These spots are often scattered all over the breast tissue. Typically, macrocalcifications don’t need additional care and don’t increase your risk of breast cancer.

  • Microcalcifications

    Microcalcifications appear as smaller specks on your mammogram. They vary in size but are less than .5 mm—or 1/50th of an inch—across. Sometimes, these specks will be grouped together or in a line. While microcalcifications are often benign, too, they can be a sign of early breast cancer.

Breast calcification symptoms

Breast calcifications don’t cause any symptoms. Because they are so small, you can’t feel these calcium spots with a breast exam. Most people don’t know they have areas of calcification in the breast until they go in for an annual screening mammogram. When X-ray images are taken during this routine screening, breast calcifications appear on the images as bright, white spots.

Because microcalcifications don’t cause symptoms but can be an early sign of precancerous cells or breast cancer, it’s important to get your annual screening mammogram. Mammograms easily detect these calcifications and give your care team vital information to guide your care.

You can also be proactive about your breast health by addressing other breast symptoms and talking to your doctor.

What causes breast calcifications?

The causes of breast calcifications are not entirely known. They’re often considered normal as you age. However, they may be more likely to form if you have other breast health conditions.

Some possible causes of breast calcification could include:

Diagnosis of breast calcifications

If your screening mammogram shows areas of calcification in breast tissue, the radiologist who reviews your mammogram will use magnification to look at the size, shape and distribution of the calcifications. Based on this, the radiologist will classify the type of breast calcification.

If your mammogram shows the more significant, scattered type—macrocalcifications—then your mammogram may be all that’s needed. If your breast calcifications show up as microcalcifications—smaller specks, especially in a group or line—then you may have other tests to get a closer look and diagnose the cause. The two most common tests to help with a diagnosis are a diagnostic mammogram and a breast biopsy. 

Diagnostic mammogram

A diagnostic mammogram helps give your team more images of your breast tissue or detailed photos of a specific area.

When you get a diagnostic mammogram, you can expect a similar process as your routine screening mammogram.


A breast biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that takes a small sample of the breast tissue where you have calcifications. Your care team then sends this tissue sample to a lab to help diagnose the cause of the breast calcification. Because breast calcifications are tiny, your team may use imaging to help guide your biopsy.

Breast calcification treatment

Your care team will create a treatment plan for your breast calcifications based on the type of calcifications you have. When calcifications appear on a mammogram, the radiologist who reviews your images puts these calcifications into one of three categories. These categories serve as a way to guide the next steps in your care.

In general, breast calcifications are more likely to be in the suspicious category if they are smaller specks, aren’t all a consistent shape or size, or are clustered together instead of scattered throughout the breast.

If your report lists the breast calcifications as “benign,” you don’t need any treatment. If you have a mammogram report that lists calcifications as “probably benign” or “suspicious,” you’ll talk with your doctor about additional monitoring or tests for your care.

The three breast calcification categories are:

  • “Benign” calcifications

    The term “benign” means that the calcifications in the breast aren’t harmful and are not a concern. You don’t need any other treatment. You can continue to check on your breast health each year with routine screening mammograms.

  • “Probably benign” calcifications

    Calcifications in the “probably benign” category are still very likely benign. The risk of cancer is less than 2%. Our team will closely monitor you using a follow-up mammogram in six months. If images do not show changes after a full year of follow-up, you’ll continue with routine annual exams.

  • "Suspicious” calcifications

    Any “suspicious” calcifications could still be harmless but need a closer look. Most people with this category have a breast biopsy to take a sample of the breast tissue and check for signs of cancer. If breast cancer is found, you have many treatment options based on your specific type. These can include radiation, chemotherapy or surgery.

Our breast imaging centers near you

We offer several locations for your care, including women’s imaging centers in North and Central Texas, to monitor and diagnose breast calcifications.

Frequently asked questions

  • What do breast calcifications mean?

    Breast calcifications mean you have tiny spots of calcium in your breast tissue. These spots are too small to feel, and they usually aren’t a cause for concern. You’ll likely be told you have breast calcifications after a routine mammogram.

  • Are breast calcifications cancer?

    No. Breast calcifications are tiny deposits of calcium in the breast tissue that are usually harmless. A type of breast calcification called microcalcifications can be one of the earliest signs of breast cancer, but the calcifications aren’t cancer cells.

  • Do breast calcifications need to be removed?

    Very rarely. Benign breast calcifications don’t need to be removed. The only case where your team might remove an area of breast calcification is to do additional testing when a biopsy couldn’t be performed or didn’t provide a diagnosis.

    If a biopsy of the area of calcification shows cancer or pre-cancerous cells, then you might have a procedure to remove the tumor.

  • Should I worry about calcifications in my breast?

    Don’t worry—calcifications in the breast are very common and usually aren’t a concern. Most breast calcifications are entirely harmless. Even in the rare case that your calcifications are a sign of pre-cancerous or cancerous cells, they’re often found in very early stages.

  • What foods cause breast calcifications?

    There aren’t any specific foods related to breast calcifications. Women often want to know if diet and medication play a role. However, there are no known links between dietary calcium intake, other foods or postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy and the risk of breast calcifications.