The two appointments I had been putting off and dreading for the last 3 years because I had enough going on diagnosis wise were the dermatologist and getting my screening mammogram.
Once I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma when finally getting that skin check I was even less enthusiastic about that mammogram. I don’t really care about the smooshing part, that doesn’t actually bother me. My mom had breast cancer 15 years ago, that increases my chances of getting it by 20%. 20% risk likelihood up from 0.48% general risk in your third decade of life. I don’t have the greatest luck with things medical in my body and frankly I just didn’t want to contemplate more issues.
I went, I got my 3D mammogram screening test done and like all other things, the results were sent to me and I knew before I heard from the center or my doctor. I needed to go back for a diagnostic mammogram. What joy. That’s sarcasm in case you did not read that correctly.
I went, more smooshing, but the technician doing the exam was kind enough to show me what flagged and what it looked like on the new images. She pulled up my scans from 2016 to show me the same area from then. Now, in a bright white cluster of dots, there were “calcifications”. Ah, just like lesions in my brain MRI this I could understand. Give me the science please, it’s the only thing I feel like I can control because it’s obvious my body is against me.
She did a mini explanation of calcifications and the three things they could be. The first is nothing, it could be nothing, just a new formation of some calcium in your breast tissue. Second, it could need to be watched in order to determine if it’s nothing or if it’s pre-cancer cells; this would require no immediate action but a follow up set of imaging in 6 months. Third, it could be cells that at pre-cancer, meaning they would move immediately to biopsy.
Mine was the second, cannot rule out the bad cells but couldn’t say for sure they were not. So I get to go back and do it again in six months to see if the cluster has changed in any way.
In general, most calcifications are not a sign of cancer (most, as I repeat this for myself). They can be from a previous breast infections or injury to the breast tissue, they could be benign lumps or cysts. The only way to know is by having educated medical professionals look at it.
Large, round califications are common in women over the age of 50, these are macrocalcifications. Tiny ones are called microcalcifications, when they are not round but not obviously unusually shaped is when you get monitored and 98% of those are not cancer. When they are tightly clustered and irregular in shape and size is when you have the stereotatic core biopsy done to determine whether or not they are benign.
My take away here, it’s most likely fine, don’t panic and in addition to seeing a neurologist, get an infusion and have my skin examined every six months I get to also see imaging of the inside of one breast. Just another day in the life of someone with numerous health issues and several chronic illnesses. (Where’s my shrug emoji when I need it?)