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
mammogram. Breast ultrasound does not use
X-rays or other potentially harmful types of
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.
Why It Is Done
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:
- Find the cause of breast symptoms, such as
pain, swelling, and redness.
- Check a breast lump found on breast
self-examination or physical examination. It is used to see whether a breast
lump is fluid-filled (a cyst) or if it is a solid lump. A lump that has no
fluid or that has fluid with floating particles may need more
- Check abnormal results from a mammogram.
- Look at
the breasts in younger women because their breast tissue is often more dense,
and a mammogram may not show as much detail.
- Guide the placement
of a needle or other tube to drain a collection of fluid (cyst) or pus (abscess), take
a sample of breast tissue (biopsy), or guide breast surgery.
- Watch for changes in the size of a cyst or a noncancerous lump (fibroadenoma).
- See how far cancer has spread in a breast.
- Check your
breasts if you have silicone breast implants or dense breasts. In these
situations, a mammogram may not be able to see breast lumps.
How To Prepare
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?).