USG BOTH BREASTS
Ultrasound imaging of the breast uses sound waves to produce pictures of the internal structures of the breast. It is used to help diagnose breast lumps or other abnormalities found during a physical exam or on a mammogram or breast MRI. Ultrasound is safe, non-invasive, and does not use radiation.
This exam requires little to no special preparation. Leave jewelry at home and wear loose, comfortable clothing. You will need to undress from the waist up and wear a gown during the exam.
What is Ultrasound Imaging of the Breast?
Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. It is safe and painless. It produces pictures of the inside of the body using sound waves. Ultrasound imaging is also called sonography. It uses a small probe called a transducer and gel placed directly on the skin. High-frequency sound waves travel from the probe through the gel into the body. The probe collects the sounds that bounce back. A computer uses those sound waves to create an image. Ultrasound exams do not use radiation (x-rays). Because ultrasound captures images in real-time, it can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs. The images can also show blood flowing through blood vessels.
Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound technique that evaluates the movement of materials in the body. It allows the doctor to see and evaluate blood flow through arteries and veins in the body.
Ultrasound (US) of the breast produces a picture of the internal structures of the breast.
During a breast ultrasound exam, the sonographer or doctor may use Doppler techniques to evaluate blood flow or lack of flow in any breast mass. In some cases, this may provide additional information as to the cause of the mass.
What are some common uses of the procedure?
- Determining the Nature of a Breast Abnormality
Doctors use breast ultrasound to help diagnose breast abnormalities detected during a physical exam. These may include a lump or spontaneous bloody/clear nipple discharge. They also use ultrasound to characterize potential abnormalities seen on mammography or breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Breast ultrasound can help determine if an abnormality is solid (which may be a non-cancerous lump of tissue or a cancerous tumor), fluid-filled (such as a benign cyst), or both cystic and solid.
- Supplemental Breast Cancer Screening
Mammography is the only screening tool for breast cancer that is known to reduce deaths due to breast cancer through early detection. Even so, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. Some breast lesions and abnormalities are not visible or are difficult to interpret on mammograms. In breasts that are dense – meaning there are a lot of ducts, glands, and fibrous tissue and less fat – many cancers can be hard to see on mammography.
Many studies have shown that breast ultrasound and MRI can help supplement mammography by detecting cancers that may not be visible with mammography. Screening breast ultrasound may identify abnormalities that are not visible with mammography, including some that may require biopsy. Many of the abnormalities found with screening breast ultrasound are not cancer (false positives). MRI is more sensitive than ultrasound in depicting breast cancer, but MRI may not be available to all women. If you obtain a screening MRI, a screening ultrasound is not needed. See the Breast Cancer Screening page for more information.
Breast ultrasound can be offered as a screening tool for women who:
- are at high risk for breast cancer and unable to undergo an MRI exam.
- are pregnant or should not be exposed to x-rays (which is necessary for a mammogram).
- have increased breast density — when the breasts have a lot of glandular and connective tissue and not much fatty tissue (see the Dense Breasts page for more information).
- Ultrasound-guided Breast Biopsy
When a breast ultrasound reveals a suspicious abnormality, the radiologist may recommend an ultrasound-guided biopsy. Because ultrasound provides real-time images, doctors often use it to guide biopsy procedures. A breast ultrasound exam will usually be necessary before the biopsy to plan the procedure and to determine if this method can be used.
How is the procedure performed?
You will lie on your back or on your side on the exam table. The sonographer may ask you to raise your arm(s) above your head.
The radiologist (a doctor specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology exams) or sonographer will position you on the exam table. They will apply a water-based gel to the area of the body under examination. The gel will help the transducer make secure contact with the body. It also eliminates air pockets between the transducer and the skin that can block the sound waves from passing into your body. The sonographer places the transducer on the body and moves it back and forth over the area of interest until it captures the desired images.
There is usually no discomfort from pressure as they press the transducer against the area being examined. However, if the area is tender, you may feel pressure or minor pain from the transducer.
Doctors perform Doppler sonography with the same transducer.
Once the imaging is complete, the technologist will wipe off the clear ultrasound gel from your skin. Any portions that remain will dry quickly. The ultrasound gel does not usually stain or discolor clothing.
What will I experience during and after the procedure?
Most ultrasound exams are painless, fast, and easily tolerated.
Breast ultrasound is usually completed within 30 minutes.
If the doctor performs a Doppler ultrasound exam, you may hear pulse-like sounds that change in pitch as they monitor and measure the blood flow.
You may need to change positions during the exam.
When the exam is complete, the technologist may ask you to dress and wait while they review the ultrasound images.
After an ultrasound exam, you should be able to resume your normal activities immediately.
What are the benefits vs. risks?
- Most ultrasound scanning is noninvasive (no needles or injections).
- Occasionally, an ultrasound exam may be temporarily uncomfortable, but it should not be painful.
- Ultrasound is widely available, easy to use, and less expensive than most other imaging methods.
- Ultrasound imaging is extremely safe and does not use radiation.
- Ultrasound scanning gives a clear picture of soft tissues that do not show up well on x-ray images.
- Ultrasound provides real-time imaging. This makes it a good tool for guiding minimally invasive procedures such as needle biopsies and fluid aspiration.
- Ultrasound imaging can help detect lesions in women with dense breasts.
- Ultrasound may help detect and classify a breast lesion that cannot be interpreted adequately through mammography alone.
- Using ultrasound, doctors are able to determine that many areas of clinical concern are due to normal tissue (such as fat lobules) or benign cysts. For most women 30 years of age and older, a mammogram will be used together with ultrasound. For women under age 30, ultrasound alone is often enough to determine whether an area of concern needs a biopsy or not.
- Standard diagnostic ultrasound has no known harmful effects on humans.
- Interpretation of a breast ultrasound exam may lead to additional procedures such as follow-up ultrasound and/or aspiration or biopsy. Many of the areas thought to be of concern turn out to be non-cancerous (false positives).