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Breast Ultrasound

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 transducercamera.gif 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 tests.
  • 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?).

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 08, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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