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Breast ultrasound

Is an imaging technique commonly used to screen for tumors and other breast abnormalities. The ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the breasts. Unlike X-rays and CT scans, ultrasounds don’t use radiation and are considered safe for pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers.

Breast ultrasound may be done to:

  • Find the cause of breast symptoms, such as pain, swelling, and redness.
  • 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.
  • Look at the breasts in younger women because their breast tissue is often more dense, and a mammogram may not show as much detail.
  • Guide the placement of a needle or other tube to drain a collection of fluid (cyst) or pus (abscess), take a sample of breast tissue (biopsy), or guide breast surgery.
  • Watch for changes in the size of a cyst or a noncancerous lump (fibroadenoma).
  • See 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.
  • Palpable abnormality
  • Focal abnormality on mammography
  • Breast pain
  • Nipple discharge
  • Follow-up of lesions not biopsied (mostly BIRADS-3 lesions)
  • Determination of lesion extent in patients with suspicious or malignant nodules
  • Assessment of regional lymph nodes in patients with suspicious or malignant lesions
  • Guiding interventional procedures

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 PDF document?).

How It Is Done

A breast ultrasound is usually done by a specially trained technologist.

You 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.

A 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.

Ultrasound is inherently operator dependent, breast ultrasound even more so; thus, a major contraindication would be inadequate operator experience.

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