Breast ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to look at the inside of your breasts. It can help your healthcare provider find breast problems. It also lets your healthcare provider see how well blood is flowing to areas in your breasts. This test is often used when a change has been seen on a mammogram or when a change is felt, but does not show up on a mammogram.
The healthcare provider moves a wand-like device called a transducer over your skin to make the images of your breasts. The transducer sends out sound waves that bounce off your breast tissue. The sound waves are too high-pitched for you to hear. The transducer then picks up the bounced sound waves. These are made into pictures of the inside of your breasts.
Your healthcare provider can add another device called a Doppler probe to the transducer. This probe lets your healthcare provider hear the sound waves the transducer sends out. He or she can hear how fast blood is flowing through a blood vessel and in which direction it is flowing. No sound or a faint sound may mean that you have a blockage in the flow.
Ultrasound is safe to have during pregnancy because it does not use radiation. It is also safe for people who are allergic to contrast dye because it does not use dye.
A breast ultrasound is most often done to find out if a problem found by a mammogram or physical exam of the breast may be a cyst filled with fluid or a solid tumor.
Breast ultrasound is not usually done to screen for breast cancer. This is because it may miss some early signs of cancer. An example of early signs that may not show up on ultrasound are tiny calcium deposits called microcalcifications.
Ultrasound may be used if you:
Your healthcare provider may also use ultrasound to look at nearby lymph nodes, help guide a needle during a biopsy, or to remove fluid from a cyst.
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend a breast ultrasound.
A breast ultrasound has no risk from radiation. It poses no risk to pregnant women.
Breast ultrasound may miss small lumps or solid tumors that are commonly found with mammography. Being obese or having very large breasts may make the ultrasound less accurate.
You may have risks depending on your specific health condition. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about any concerns you have before the procedure.
You may have a breast ultrasound as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. The way the test is done may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.
Generally, breast ultrasound follows this process:
You do not need any special care after a breast ultrasound. Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: