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Breast Cancer and Breast Ultrasound

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Breast ultrasound is a procedure that may be used to determine whether a lump is a cyst (sac containing fluid) or a solid mass which might be cancer. If the lump is found to be a cyst, fluid is typically withdrawn from it using a needle and syringe (a process called aspiration). If clear fluid is removed and the mass completely disappears, no further treatment or evaluation is needed.

Ultrasound can also be used to precisely locate the position of a known tumor to help guide the doctor during a biopsy or aspiration procedure. Ultrasound helps confirm correct needle placement.

Ultrasound testing works by transmitting high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, through the breast. The sound waves bounce off surfaces in the breast (tissue, air, fluid) and these "echoes" are recorded and transformed into video or photographic images.

Are There Side Effects From Breast Ultrasound?

Studies have shown that breast ultrasound is safe. There are no harmful side effects. Ultrasound does not use radiation, as X-rays do.

What Happens During the Breast Ultrasound Test?

There is no special preparation for the breast ultrasound test. Here is what you can expect the day of the test:

  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown, so you may consider wearing a two-piece outfit on the day of the test so that you only need to remove your top.
  • You will lie on a padded examining table during the test.
  • A small amount of water-soluble gel is applied to the skin over the area to be examined. The gel does not harm your skin or stain your clothes.
  • A probe that looks like a little paddle is gently applied against the skin.
  • You may be asked to hold your breath briefly several times.
  • The ultrasound test takes about 10 minutes to complete.

After the test, the gel will be wiped off your skin. Your doctor will discuss the test results with you.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Angela Jain on June 17, 2014
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