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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Mammogram Concern
May 2001

Q. My mammogram shows a faint cluster of very small calcification in the left lower inner quadrant. Evaluation with the magnification view mammogram did not clarify anything, it was inconclusive. I was suggested to have the repeat mammogram in 6 month to see if there are any changes. Are there any other alternatives to find what is the problem? Is it dangerous to wait so long if this is a sign of beginning cancer? I am worried. What shall I do?

A. You have asked several good questions here! Let's review some general guidelines for mammograms first.

It is recommended by most medical organizations that a baseline mammogram (meaning the first one) be done between the ages of 35 and 40; Between ages 40 and 50, mammograms every 2 years, and then yearly after 50. The guidelines can be modified for an individual, for example a mammogram might be warranted yearly for a 40-year-old woman with a strong family history of breast cancer. The finding of calcium deposits can be interpreted according to the pattern and location of the calcium. In your case, the radiologists apparently said it was a benign pattern of calcium deposits.

If there is still suspicion based on your exam or the mammogram, the next test is usually a biopsy, in which a small tissue sample is taken which can then be studied in the laboratory looking at the individual cells. Your doctor can discuss this possibility with you. There are some excellent information sources on the internet now.

HELPFUL WEBSITES:

http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/about.htm

http://www.breastcancerinfo.com/bhealth/

http://cancernet.nci.nih.gov/

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