Ultrasound Scans & Imaging
An ultrasound of the breast uses sound waves to take photos of the tissues inside the breast. This type of ultrasound can show all the areas of the breast and includes the area under the arm and tissue closest to the chest wall, but the photos are limited to an area of interest only. Ultrasound technology is especially useful to see whether a specific breast lump is filled with fluid (a cyst) or not (a solid lump).
It is important to know that a breast ultrasound does not replace the need for a mammogram and a 3D mammogram is far superior in screening for breast cancer than a breast ultrasound. Ultrasound is thus rather used to check abnormal findings already detected on a 3d mammogram.
Why It Is Done
As explained above, Breast ultrasound can add necessary information to the findings of other tests, like a mammogram. It may in some specific circumstances provide new information not clearly identified on the mammogram or confirm already suspected diagnosis.
The Radiologist may decide to do a breast ultrasound to:
Other important indications
An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy or aspiration is useful to allow your Radiologist to confirm that a suspicious lump is not cancer (benign) and thus avoid having surgery to evaluate the lump. Breast ultrasound could also guide needle placement to fully drain a cyst (fluid collection) or abscess (puss collection) or to guide a biopsy needle to remove breast cells from a lump (biopsy sample).
A breast ultrasound may be used instead of a mammogram in a woman who might have concerns about X-rays. Breast Ultrasound is also the test of choice if you are pregnant.
A breast ultrasound could also be useful for screening younger women with a family history of breast cancer.
How breast ultrasound is done
A specially trained Radiologist of Radiographer usually performs the breast ultrasound examination in a specialized ultrasound room. The hand-held unit is called a transducer and is gently passed over the skin of the breast. A special computer turns the sound waves into an image on a monitor. The image is called a sonogram or ultrasound scan.
You will be given a robe or wrap-around to drape around the chest or over the shoulders, and you will be asked to undress above the waist. It is preferred that you remove the jewelry from around your neck.
The gel will be used on the breast to allow good contact between the transducer and the breast’s skin. An image of the breast tissue (inside the breast) can be seen on a monitor.
Although the gel is often stored in a gel warmer, it could still feel cold on the skin. You will experience slight pressure from the transducer as it moves over the breast. Nevertheless, you should not feel discomfort unless your breast is painful before starting the test (often in fibrocystic breast disease or infections.
A breast ultrasound test (both breasts) usually takes about 15 minutes. Examination time may increase if a biopsy is also needed. You would be asked to wait for your Radiologist to review the images if a sonographer performed the sonar. The Radiologist may decide to do more views of some areas of the breast if needed.
Breast ultrasound findings
The breast tissue demonstrates no abnormalities of note. The test is done on both breasts and the breast tissue looks similar. The Lymph nodes under the arm also looks normal.
Cyst: A fluid-filled sac is present. A fluid-filled lump that is evenly shaped and has no particles floating in the fluid is most likely a simple cyst. This often does not need any further tests. Cysts that are painful or a nuisance could be aspirated (fluid drawn out by a small needle) to relieve the pain.
A cyst found that has particles in it. This will often need more tests performed. A lump 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.
Important things to remember
Please wear a two-piece outfit that will allow you to undress above the waist only.
An ultrasound does not use any harmful types of radiation but only soundwaves, and there are no known risks to the breast due to the breast ultrasound test.
We may decide not to perform the ultrasound if you have an open wound in or around the breast.
A Breast ultrasound cannot replace a mammogram.
A Breast ultrasound is useful to check a problem seen on a mammogram. A Breast ultrasound is helpful to show specific detail in women who have very dense breasts.