What is meant by calcifications and dense tissue on a mammogram? Are these normal results? Does it mean I am at risk for getting cancer again?
Christine Hill-Kayser, MD, Radiation Oncologist, responds:
Calcifications may be normal, but are sometimes associated with breast cancer. Certain types of calcifications, called microcalcifications, may be more worrisome to your doctor. If your doctor and radiologist are concerned that calcifications on your mammogram may represent cancer, they may recommend more mammograms, an MRI, and/or a breast biopsy. Dense tissue may be found normally, after a biopsy or breast surgery, after breast radiation, or in the setting of breast cancer. Again, if your doctors are worried that dense tissue on your mammogram may be cancer, they will recommend more tests or a biopsy. If you have had breast cancer treatment in the past, keep in mind that your mammograms will probably never be completely "normal." Scarring from surgery and/or radiation will be visible, but usually does not mean that the cancer has returned. Be sure that you discuss your mammogram findings with your healthcare team to be sure that you understand why further tests were, or were not, recommended.
This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Interpreting Test Results transcript.
Nov 12, 2012 - Agreement between community-based radiologists and an expert radiology panel for interpreting mammograms is high for cancer cases and obvious findings, but is low for subtle and asymmetric lesions, calcifications, asymmetric densities, and architectural distortions, according to a study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.
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