A breast ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to make a picture of the tissues inside the breast. The sound waves pass through the breast and bounce back, or echo, from various tissues to form a picture of the internal structures. It is not invasive and involves no radiation or X-rays. The breast ultrasound can show all areas of the breast, including the area closest to the chest wall, which can be hard to study with a mammogram.
When is a Breast Ultrasound Needed?
- To check a lump felt by a doctor during a clinical exam or by a patient on a breast self exam, after a mammogram is performed.
- To characterize abnormalities seen on a screening or diagnostic mammogram.
- To see whether a breast mass is solid or a fluid-filled cyst. Solid masses may require follow-up imaging or biopsy.
- To look for a cause of spontaneous nipple discharge.
- To look at the breast tissue in symptomatic women under age 30.
- To supplement screening mammography in selected patients with dense breast tissue.
- In women who are pregnant or should not to be exposed to x-rays.
Before Your Breast Ultrasound
- No fasting or sedation is required before the procedure.
- Dress in clothes that permit access to the area to be tested or that are easily removed.
During Your Breast Ultrasound
First, you will lie on your back with your arm raised above your head on the examining table. A clear water-based gel is applied to the breast to help the transducer make secure contact with the body and eliminate air pockets between the transducer and the skin. The sonographer (ultrasound technologist), followed by the radiologist, then presses the transducer firmly against the skin of the breast to obtain images for interpretation.
An ultrasound examination is usually completed within 20 minutes.