The Weeks Clinic
Corrective Medicine and Psychiatry
Dr. Weeks recommends…..
A breast ultrasound is a procedure that uses reflected sound waves to view and produce a picture of the internal structures of 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 types of possibly harmful radiation.
A breast ultrasound is used to determine whether a breast lump is filled with fluid (a cyst) or a solid mass. An ultrasound generally does not replace the need for a mammogram; however, it is often used to further evaluate a problem seen on a mammogram.
For a breast ultrasound, a small handheld instrument called a transducer is passed back and forth over the breast. It sends out high-pitched sound waves (above the range of human hearing) that are reflected back to the transducer. A detector analyzes the sound waves and converts them into a picture that is displayed on a video monitor. The picture produced by ultrasound is called a sonogram, echogram, or ultrasound scan. Pictures or videos of the ultrasound images may be made for a permanent record.
Breast ultrasound is done to:
- Evaluate a breast lump found on breast self-examination, physical examination, or mammogram, or when there is some other reason to suspect a possible abnormality. It is useful for determining whether a breast lump is fluid-filled (a cyst) or a solid mass. A lump that has no fluid or that has fluid with floating particles may require further evaluation.
- Evaluate the breasts in younger women because their breast tissue is often more dense, and a mammogram may not show sufficient detail.
- Guide the placement of a needle or other instrument during a breast biopsy or breast surgery.
- Monitor the growth of a cyst or guide the placement of a needle to drain the cyst.
- Evaluate your breasts if you have silicone breast implants or dense breasts. In these situations, a mammogram may not be helpful in identifying breast lumps.
- Evaluate your breast symptoms, such as pain, redness, and fever.
Wear a two-piece outfit so that it is easy to undress above the waist.
Talk to your health professional about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will indicate. 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 and drape a paper or cloth covering around your shoulders. Remove all jewelry from around your neck.
Gel will be spread on your breast to improve the passage of the sound waves (they do not pass easily through air). The transducer is pressed against your breast and moved back and forth over it. A picture of the breast tissue can be seen on a video monitor.
A breast ultrasound test usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. Additional time may be needed if a breast exam will be done before the ultrasound or if a biopsy is also scheduled. You may be asked to wait until a radiologist has reviewed the information. If a breast examination is done before the ultrasound test, the testing may take up to an hour. The radiologist may want to do additional ultrasound views of some areas of your breast.
The gel may feel cold when it is applied to your breast unless it has been in a warmer. 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 other infection. You will not hear the sound unless a duplex Doppler ultrasound is done to evaluate blood flow to the area.
There are no known risks associated with a breast ultrasound test.
A breast ultrasound is a procedure that uses reflected sound waves to view and produce a picture of the internal structures of the breast. A breast ultrasound can show all areas of the breast, including the area closest to the chest wall.
The tissue shown on ultrasound pictures appears normal. If the test is done on both breasts, a similar pattern of breast tissue is found throughout both breasts.
The most common abnormal findings include a fluid-filled sac (cyst). A fluid-filled lump that is shaped symmetrically and has no particles floating in it is likely to be a simple cyst. This may require no further evaluation.
A cyst is found that has particles or other material in it (a complex cyst). This may require a needle aspiration or follow-up with another ultrasound.
A mass is found that appears solid rather than cystic. Depending on the mass appearance, your age, and other medical factors, this may require a biopsy or follow-up with another ultrasound.
Several factors can interfere with your test and the accuracy of the results.
- Moving during the procedure can interfere with the quality of the breast ultrasound picture.
- Having an open wound in the area that needs to be viewed may interfere with the ultrasound.
- A breast ultrasound can help determine whether a lump found during a breast examination is a simple fluid-filled cyst or a solid tumor.
- An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy may allow your doctor to evaluate a suspicious lump without surgery. Sometimes, further testing (including an open biopsy) is needed to evaluate the lump.
- A breast ultrasound also may be used to guide surgery on the breast.
- A breast ultrasound may occasionally be used instead of a mammogram if you are younger than 25 and have concerns about X-rays or should not be exposed to any radiation because you are pregnant. For more information, see the medical test Mammogram.
- A breast ultrasound may be useful for screening young women with a family history of breast cancer. However, more study is needed to determine the effectiveness of ultrasound for this purpose.
- An ultrasound generally does not substitute for a mammogram, which uses X-rays. However, an ultrasound is often used for further evaluation of a problem seen on a mammogram. For more information, see the medical test Mammogram.
- A breast MRI scan is a relatively new type of test that may be used for exams after surgery or to evaluate dense breast tissue.
- A new test called a BreastScan IR may be used in addition to a breast ultrasound or mammography to help evaluate breast tissue. The scan does not compress or touch the breast in any way. The scan uses an infrared camera to measure the temperature of breast tissue. A computer then compares the temperature against a database of “normal” temperatures to determine whether the breast has any abnormal tissue.