Calcium deposits (calcifications) are small mineral deposits that show up as white spots on a mammogram. Calcifications in the breast are common. Many women have at least one breast calcification that can be seen on a mammogram. Most breast calcifications are noncancerous (benign). But certain patterns of calcifications, such as tight clusters, can be associated with cancer.
The cause of fibrocystic changes is related to the way breast tissue responds to monthly changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone, female hormones produced by the ovaries during a woman's reproductive years. Each month during one's menstrual cycle, the breast tissue alternately swells and returns to normal. Hormonal stimulation of the breast tissue causes the milk glands and ducts to enlarge, and the breasts to retain water. The breasts frequently feel swollen, painful, tender, and lumpy at this time. After menstruation, swelling in the breast usually decreases, and the breasts feel less tender and lumpy. That's why the best time to examine the breast is 7-10 days after the start of the menstrual period, when the breast tissue is at its most normal state.
As a result of repeated hormone stimulation, there is an increase in firmness of the tissue, and packets of fluid called cysts may form in obstructed or enlarged milk ducts. The breast tissue may feel like an irregularly shaped area of thicker tissue with a lumpy or ridge-like surface. Fibrocystic tissue may also feel like tiny beads scattered throughout the breasts.
Generally, fibrocystic changes are found in both breasts and most frequently are found in the upper outer quadrant and the underside of the breast where a ridge may sometimes be felt. Premenopausal women with a fibrocystic condition may experience an increase in size of the lumpy areas in the breast, as well as discomfort ranging from a feeling of fullness or heaviness to a dull ache, extreme sensitivity to touch, or a burning sensation. For some women, the pain is so severe that it precludes exercise or even lying on the abdomen. The condition tends to subside after menopause (change of life).