Breast Ultrasound

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on September 01, 2022
2 min read

A breast ultrasound is a painless procedure that uses sound waves to make images of the inside of your breast. The sound waves bounce off surfaces in your body, and the "echoes" are recorded to make video or photographs.

You might get a breast ultrasound:

  • If your breast tissue is too dense for a mammogram
  • If you’re pregnant
  • If you’re younger than 25
  • To look more closely at a suspicious area spotted on a mammogram
  • To see if breast implants have broken open (ruptured)
  • To tell whether a lump in your breast is a cyst (a fluid-filled sac) or a solid mass, which might be cancer
  • To pinpoint the position of a tumor. This guides the doctor to the exact place to put in a needle during a biopsy.

Your doctor will explain the procedure and answer any questions you might have. You may need to sign a form that says you consent to the ultrasound.

You can eat and drink as usual before the test. But don’t put any lotions or powders on your breasts.

Wear clothing that you can take off easily. You’ll undress from the waist up and wear a gown during the procedure.

The exact test may depend on your case, but in general:

  • You’ll lie back on a padded examining table.
  • The technician will put a small amount of water-soluble gel on the skin over the area to be examined. The gel doesn’t harm your skin or stain your clothes.
  • They’ll gently move a probe that looks like a little paddle over the skin.
  • They may ask you to hold your breath briefly several times.
  • The test takes about 10 to 20 minutes to complete.
  • The technician then wipes the gel off your skin. You can get dressed and go back to your regular schedule.

A specialist called a radiologist will look at the images and send a report to your doctor.

Your doctor will talk with you about your results and whether you need follow-up exams. You may need them:

  • If your doctor thinks a problem spot needs a closer look or a different imaging test
  • To watch for changes over time
  • To check whether a certain treatment is working

Ultrasound is safe. There are no side effects. It doesn’t use radiation like X-rays do.