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Breast Ultrasound

(continued)

How It Is Done

A breast ultrasound is usually done by a specially trained technologist.

You will be asked to undress above the waist. You will be given a gown to drape around your shoulders. Remove all jewelry from around your neck.

Gel will be put on your breast so the transducer can pick up the sound waves as it is moved back and forth over the breast. A picture of the breast tissue can be seen on a TV screen.

A breast ultrasound test usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. More time may be needed if a breast exam will be done or if a biopsy is also planned. You may be asked to wait until a radiologist has reviewed the pictures. The radiologist may want to do more ultrasound views of some areas of your breast.

How It Feels

The gel may feel cold when it is put on your breast. 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 another infection. You will not hear the sound waves. A special Doppler ultrasound may be used to check the blood flow to the breast; you can hear the sound waves from this type of ultrasound.

Risks

There are no known risks in having a breast ultrasound test.

Results

A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to make of picture of the tissues inside of the breast.

The radiologist may discuss the results of the ultrasound with you right after the test. Complete results are usually available to your doctor in 1 to 2 days.

Breast ultrasound
Normal:
The breast tissue looks normal. If the test is done on both breasts, the tissue looks similar.
Abnormal:
A fluid-filled sac (cyst) is present. A fluid-filled lump that is evenly shaped and has no particles floating in it is likely to be a simple cyst. This may not need more tests. See an ultrasound image of a simple breast cystcamera.gif.
A cyst is found that has particles in it (a complex cyst). This may need more tests.
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.

 

What Affects the Test

You may not be able to have the test or the results may not be helpful if you have an open wound in the breast area.

What To Think About

  • An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy may allow your doctor to confirm a suspicious lump is not cancer (benign) without surgery.
  • A breast ultrasound may occasionally be used instead of a mammogram if you are younger than 30 and have concerns about X-rays or should not be exposed to any radiation because you are pregnant. To learn more, see the topic Mammogram.
  • A breast ultrasound may be useful for screening young women with a family history of breast cancer. More study is needed to see if ultrasound is good for this purpose.
  • An ultrasound does not replace a mammogram. An ultrasound can be used to check a problem seen on a mammogram. It can also be used to show more detail in women who have dense breasts.
  • A breast MRI is another type of test that may be used for breast exams after surgery or to check dense breast tissue. Breast MRI may be used along with a mammogram and breast ultrasound to check breasts or breast lumps.

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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