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    Cluster of microcalcifications
    lisa71971 posted:
    I had a mammogram that showed a cluster of microcalcifications..had to go back and the radiologist said that it looks benign. My question is, will this cluster eventually turn in to breast cancer?

    Thank you
    judyfams responded:
    There are 2 kinds of calcifications - micro and macro - both are usually benign 95 -98% of the time.
    The macrocalcifications are large white dots dispersed throughout the breast and are quite common and are non cancerous.
    Microcalcifications look like small white dots on the mammogram and are also benign. However they are usually monitored to see if they begin to cluster together. If that should occur then that can be a precancerous indication.
    So they usually do a repeat mammo in 6 months and if there are no changes in the pattern, then they are monitored by having a yearly mammogram.
    Benign microcalcifications usually do not need further monitoring.
    So if your radiologist says your are benign - you will probably not need any further follow up treatment.
    I know it sounds scary - but calcifications are very normally found in the aging breast most of the time.
    Let us know how you are doing.
    lisa71971 replied to judyfams's response:
    Thank you Judy!!

    Well I know about microcalcifications but I wanted to know if the *CLUSTER* OF MICROCALCIFICATIONS that is benign in the beginning, will turn into cancer..Like, will they more than likely turn into cancer or can they stay clustered with out any change?

    judyfams replied to lisa71971's response:
    From my research it appears that microcalcifications that are clustered together MAY be a sign of precancerous cells or early breast cancer - hence the need to closely monitor their "shape" over time.
    However it is the further classification that also matters.
    Benign - no problem - no further treatment is recommended
    Probably benign means that there is a 2% risk of possibly being cancerous and are monitored for 6 mos - 1 year and if there are no further changes then monitored through the annual mammogram
    Suspicious may be a sign of early cancer and in that case they will recommend a stereotactic biopsy. Then depending on the results of that biopsy one may need further treatment.
    What did the radiologist recommend? Follow up mammo in 6 mos or a biopsy to make sure they are benign?
    I had calcifications in my breast which were biopsied and were benign- but since I had invasive breast cancer in my other breast - my calcifications were biopsied and found to be benign. I then had a 6 mos follow up mammo and since then (2010) have only had that breast followed up in a yearly mammo.
    Discuss the classification of your calcifications with your doctor and find out what he recommends for monitoring you. If you feel that you want to have them biopsied I would recommend discussing that with him as well - as peace of mind is essential. However remember that if they are classified as benign the insurance company may not pay for the biopsy.
    So I would definitely have a discussion with your doctor and if you are still uncomfortable then by all means seek a second or third opinion. I would also advise you to get copies of your reports too.
    Let us know what you find out and good luck.
    lisa71971 replied to judyfams's response:
    Yes the radiologist recommended a follow up mammogram in 6 months. He said the only way to know for sure is through a biopsy. He said he can only be about 97 percent sure.

    I do plan on getting the report just so I have them. I am going to have another radiologist look at them just to get a second opinion.

    I wanted to get a biopsy just to make sure but now I am not so sure I want to do that.

    The only reason I say I wanted another biopsy is because I read on one of these websites where a girl was told her situation was benign and she wanted a second opinion to make sure and they found out it was NOT benign and that scared me.

    I guess if it does look suspicious in the future and it does turn out to be cancer it is the early stages more than likely and that is the best time to catch it.

    This breast is painful too, I often wonder if it is a cyst thats in there. I am going to ask my doctor Monday, I have had this breast pain for about a month and a half, That is why the doctor got me in for the mammogram. I take Evening primrose oil which seems to help with the pain, It seems to go away when I sleep too...

    I have a 20 year old daughter and a 4 year old daughter that I truly want to be here for. (I am 40 years old by the way). My mother moved to a different state when I was 14 and there were times in my life where I really needed her and she was not there for me...So I really really want to be here for them, I know what its like to not have my mom around.

    Can doing a biopsy make cancer spread if someone does have cancer?

    Sorry to ask all these questions but you know doctors, they never answer your questions when you have the questions. And they are unreachable most of the time!

    Thank you!
    rachael67 replied to lisa71971's response:
    Lisa, Judy has done a great job in giving you all the details and what to expect. (She is super in doing so!!) And YOU have done a great job in thinking things thru...Not necessarily worrying, but looking at things realistically and doing some homework!!

    As for seeking a 2nd opinion, absolutely!! We on here favor that path in almost all cases...And so do most insurance companies!! (I have even gotten a 3rd opinion on some issues!!) And I never go to see a doctor but that I have done research and have a list of questions/clarifications needed that I toss in his direction.

    Yes, a biopsy is the only way in which cancer can be diagnosed. As far as possibly spreading it, I have only heard that in old wives tales...Never have seen the idea scientifically discussed. (If anyone has, please post!!)

    If you seek another opinion, make sure you bring copies of all mammograms, reports, etc. with you to the 2nd doctor.

    Holding you in my thoughts. Keep us posted.

    A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.
    Maya Angelou
    judyfams replied to rachael67's response:
    We always worry when things are not "normal" with our body, and when it is the breast we also jump to thinking we have terminal breast cancer. I did that when mine was found on a routine mammo and that is a very normal reaction and you are wise to be concerned and do research and as Rachaelsaid seek a second or third opinion too.
    There is no evidence that biopsies cause breast cancer to spread.
    Also, if indeed your calcifications are precancerous or early stage cancer and they do not do a biopsy now - they will not grow dramatically in the 6 mos you wait for your next mammo. In fact most early stage cancers that are found they think have been growing very slowly for about 10-15 years until they show up on a mammo!
    I know the anxiety as I had that waiting for my 6 mos mammo - since I had cancer in the other breast I was concerned about waiting, but trusted the radiologist and my breast surgeon when they told me that that was the right thing to do in my situstion, and it turned out they were correct. That doesn't negate the fear in the back of our minds that it could be something else! So you need to ask all the questions and make the right choices for you. If you want a biopsy you may find it difficult to find a doctor that will do it now if the cluster shapes are in the benign or probably benign category. But you need to do everything you can to feel comfortable with the doctor's recommendation.
    You are absolutely approaching this in a logical, organized way and I am sure will get your questions and concerns dealt with to give you some peace of mind.
    All of us understand what you are going through - so please keep us informed about your situation.
    lisa71971 replied to judyfams's response:
    Thanks girls!

    I tend to obsess on stuff. I had OCD when I was younger so I think its showing up a bit now!

    So if the cluster turns out to be early cancer, how long would it take to turn into full blown cancer if nothing was done about it?

    Also, can a cluster stay a benign cluster forever or will it more than likely eventually turn into cancer at some point?
    lisa71971 replied to lisa71971's response:
    And what you said about 10-15 years, do you mean that once the cluster is benign it could take 10-15 to turn into cancer if it is going to, and if so, it would be early cancer anyway?

    Thank you!!
    judyfams replied to lisa71971's response:
    I am not a doctor just have done a lot of research on breast cancer. So I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability.
    There is no such thing as early cancer or full blown cancer. I think what you are referring to are the stages of cancer - Stage 0, I, II, III and IV. They are all cancer (although there is some controversy as to whether stage 0 is cancer), and are treated differently via surgery, chemo and/or radiation.People do not go through each stage of cancer. Your diagnosis stage usually depends upon the size of the tumor and if there is node involvement as well as other markers. However someone diagnosed with stage I cancer will not then progress to stage II cancer and so on. Stage IV cancer usually means the cancer has distant recurrence to other body organs.
    So if your clusters were diagnosed as one of the cancer stages I listed above - that is cancer and each stage presents different treatment options.
    Benign clusters can stay that way forever and will always be classified as benign even if they are in your body for many years. If or when a cancer is staged as O or I they feel THE CANCER has been growing in the body for 10-15 years before the mammo picked it up - not that it took 10-15 years for the benign/precancerous cells to turn into cancer.
    If your cluster is deemed to be precancerous there is no way to determine when or if it will become a cancer that will be staged. And once again the doctors will determine the best course of treatment for that depending on your overall health, family history, age and other factors. Sometimes treatment consists of careful monitoring.
    So I would encourage to ask your doctors all these questions and if need be obtain second or third opinions.
    rachael67 replied to judyfams's response:
    Judy, I recall hearing a few years back that many people can trace the cancer they have to ten years prior and recall something important/stressful that occured then. For myself, I was diagnosed in 2003 and my Dad died in 1993.

    When I had first heard of this, I posted it and asked others what they felt about it. Many did say they could then trace back ten years earlier as an important date for one reason or another. Again, fact or fiction? Haven't heard from the scientific communities on this one, but do find it interesting.

    A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.
    Maya Angelou
    judyfams replied to rachael67's response:
    There are many who believe that stress is a major factor in cancer diagnosis - and I too believe that. There are no studies that I know of.
    I don't recall any specific events in my personal life in 2000, but could the millenium and all the hype about Y2K have had something to do with my diagnosis in 2010?
    Very interesting!
    lisa71971 replied to judyfams's response:
    Thanks Judy I realize you are not a doctor but I do believe when it comes to our health and the health of our loved ones, we can do tons of research that may even rival a doctor's research!

    Forgive me if I am not understanding this correctly. If a person has stage 1 cancer and never does anything about it will NOT grow to stage 4 cancer?

    Why are they keeping an eye on this cluster? That is what is confusing me, if it looks benign now, won't it stay that way or can it change?

    I appreciate all the help and time you are taking to try to explain this to me!
    jenna291 replied to lisa71971's response:
    Yikes, I don't know if stress contributes to cancer, but I would think that if it did, every parent who had a child fighting in Iraq or Afganistan would be ill.

    I think there are just so many contributing factors, and not knowing WHY we are in this category is really frustrating.

    The main thing is, we are here and here to stay!!!

    enjoy the day - over 70 degrees in Boston today. I have daffodils poking out from the ground already!

    judyfams replied to lisa71971's response:
    To answer your question - the tumor is "staged" at the time of surgery (or biopsy) and the pathology of the tumor will help determine the stage. At that point the tumor is removed and one should not have that cancer in their body. Obvioiusly surgical removal is not the sole treatment - there could be chemo, radiation or antiestrogen pills taken. So a person diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer - and the tumor is removed surgically and/or treated with chemo, so for all intents and purposes that person should no longer have stage 1breast cancer.
    If one has stage 1 and never has the tumor removed, and it grows larger in place - then it can become stage 2 and if left in place and it continues to grow it can be classified as stage 3. A diagnosis of stage 4 is not based on the size of the tumor or how long it has been in the body. Generally a stage 4 diagnosis means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body like the bones, liver, brain and lungs. Once the cancer has spread like that it is considered to be stage 4. Stage 4 cancers which have spread (metastasized) are usually treated with chemo and/or other cancer killing drugs.
    That is why you might hear someone say they have breast cancer that spread to their liver. That means the original primary cancer originated in the breast and then spread to the liver.
    As far as the cluster of microcalcifications it may never change and remain benign for the rest of your life. Then the shapes/patterns of the clusters may change over time which can be seen on a mammo and they may go from benign to suspicious, at which point they will most likely do a biopsy to determine if it is cancer and what stage it is.
    When, or whether it will change - nobody knows, nor can they ever predict when or if it will happen that is why they recommend yearly mammos to check the pattern of the clusters to see if they change from the previous mammo.
    Benign does not mean it will turn malignant at some future time.
    Hope this helps to answer some of your questions.

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