A 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 radiation.
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.
Breast 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 done to:
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?).
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.
The 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 test.
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.
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.
Other Works Consulted
- Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
- Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Howard Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology|
|Last Revised||March 8, 2012|
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