breast ultrasound uses sound waves to make a picture of the tissues inside the breast.
A breast ultrasound can show all areas of the breast, including the area closest to
the chest wall, which is hard to study with a mammogram. Breast ultrasound does not use X-rays or other potentially harmful types of
A breast ultrasound is used to see whether a breast lump is filled
with fluid (a cyst) or if it is a solid lump. An ultrasound
does not replace the need for a mammogram, but it is often used to check abnormal
results from a mammogram.
For a breast ultrasound, a small handheld unit called
a transducer is gently passed back and forth over
the breast. A computer turns the sound waves into a picture on a TV screen. The picture
is called a sonogram or ultrasound scan.
Why It Is Done
ultrasound can add important information to the results of other tests, such as a
mammogram or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It also may
provide information that is not found with a mammogram. A breast ultrasound may be
Find the cause of breast symptoms, such as pain, swelling, and
Check a breast lump found on breast self-examination or physical
examination. It is used to see whether a breast lump is fluid-filled (a cyst) or if
it is a solid lump. A lump that has no fluid or that has fluid with floating particles
may need more tests.
Check abnormal results from a mammogram.
at the breasts in younger women because their breast tissue is often more dense, and
a mammogram may not show as much detail.
for changes in the size of a cyst or a noncancerous lump (fibroadenoma).
how far cancer has spread in a breast.
Check your breasts if you have silicone
breast implants or dense breasts. In these situations, a mammogram may not be able
to see breast lumps.
How To Prepare
Wear a two-piece
outfit so that it is easy to undress above the waist.
Talk to your doctor about
any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done,
or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test,
fill out the medical test information form(What is a
It Is Done
A breast ultrasound is usually done by a specially trained technologist.
will be asked to undress above the waist. You will be given a gown to drape around
your shoulders. Remove all jewelry from around your neck.
Gel will be put on
your breast so the transducer can pick up the sound waves as it is moved back and
forth over the breast. A picture of the breast tissue can be seen on a TV screen.
breast ultrasound test usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. More time may be needed
if a breast exam will be done or if a biopsy is also planned. You may be asked to
wait until a radiologist has reviewed the pictures. The radiologist
may want to do more ultrasound views of some areas of your breast.
How It Feels
gel may feel cold when it is put on your breast. You will feel light pressure from
the transducer as it passes over your breast, but you should feel no discomfort unless
your breast is tender because of fibrocystic breast changes, an abscess, or another
infection. You will not hear the sound waves. A special Doppler ultrasound may be
used to check the blood flow to the breast; you can hear the sound waves from this
type of ultrasound.
There are no known risks in having a breast ultrasound
A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to make of
picture of the tissues inside of the breast.
The radiologist may discuss the results of the ultrasound
with you right after the test. Complete results are usually available to your doctor
in 1 to 2 days.
The breast tissue looks normal. If the test is done on
both breasts, the tissue looks similar.
fluid-filled sac ( cyst) is present. A fluid-filled lump that is
evenly shaped and has no particles floating in it is likely to be a simple cyst. This
may not need more tests. See an ultrasound image of a simple breast cyst.
A cyst is found
that has particles in it (a complex cyst). This may need more tests.
is found that looks solid. Depending on the lump, your age, and other medical factors,
you may need a biopsy or follow-up with other tests.
Affects the Test
You may not be able to have the test or the results may not
be helpful if you have an open wound in the breast area.
What To Think
An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy may allow your doctor to confirm
a suspicious lump is not cancer (benign) without surgery.
A breast ultrasound
may occasionally be used instead of a mammogram if you are younger than 30 and have
concerns about X-rays or should not be exposed to any radiation
because you are pregnant. To learn more, see the topic Mammogram.
A breast ultrasound may be useful for screening young women
with a family history of breast cancer. More study is needed to see if ultrasound
is good for this purpose.
An ultrasound does not replace a mammogram. An ultrasound
can be used to check a problem seen on a mammogram. It can also be used to show more
detail in women who have dense breasts.
A breast MRI is another type of test that may be used
for breast exams after surgery or to check dense breast tissue. Breast MRI may be
used along with a mammogram and breast ultrasound to check breasts or breast lumps.
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.
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