What Is a Breast Ultrasound?
A breast ultrasound is
an imaging technique commonly used to screen for tumors and other breast
abnormalities. The ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce detailed
images of the inside of the breasts. Unlike X-rays and CT scans, ultrasounds don’t
use radiation and are considered safe for pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers.
Why Is a Breast Ultrasound Performed?
Your doctor may perform a breast ultrasound if a suspicious lump
is discovered in your breast. An ultrasound helps your doctor determine whether
the lump is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid tumor. It also allows them to determine
the location and size of the lump.
While a breast ultrasound can be used to assess a lump in your
breast, it can’t be used to determine whether the lump is cancerous. That can
only be established if a sample of tissue or fluid is removed from the lump and
tested in a laboratory. To obtain a tissue or fluid sample, your doctor may
perform an ultrasound-guided core
needle biopsy. During this procedure, your doctor will use a breast
ultrasound as a guide while they remove the sample of tissue or fluid. The
sample will then be sent to a laboratory for analysis. You may feel nervous or
frightened while waiting for the biopsy results, but it’s important to keep in
mind that four
out of five breast lumps are benign,
Aside from being used to determine the nature of a breast
abnormality, a breast ultrasound may also be performed on women who should
avoid radiation, such as:
- women under age 25
- women who are pregnant
- women who are breast-feeding
- women with silicone breast implants
How Do I Prepare for a Breast Ultrasound?
A breast ultrasound doesn’t require any special preparation.
It’s also important to avoid applying powders, lotions, or other
cosmetics to your breasts before the ultrasound. This can interfere with the
accuracy of the test.
How Is a Breast Ultrasound Performed?
Before the ultrasound, your doctor will examine your breast. They’ll
then ask you to undress from the waist up and to lie on your back on an
Your doctor will apply a clear gel to your breast. This
conductive gel helps the sound waves travel through your skin. Your doctor will
then move a wand-like device called a transducer over your breast.
The transducer sends and receives high-frequency sound waves. As
the waves bounce off the internal structures of your breast, the transducer
records changes in their pitch and direction. This creates a real-time
recording of the inside of your breast on a computer monitor. If they find
something suspicious, they’ll take multiple pictures.
Once the images have been recorded, your doctor will clean the
gel off your breast and you can then get dressed.
What Are the Risks of a Breast Ultrasound?
Since a breast ultrasound doesn’t require the use of radiation, it
doesn’t pose any risks. Radiation tests aren’t considered safe for pregnant
women. An ultrasound is the preferred method of breast examination for women
who are pregnant. In fact, the test uses the same type of ultrasound waves used
to monitor the development of a fetus.
Results of a Breast Ultrasound
The images produced by a breast ultrasound are in black and
white. Cysts, tumors, and growths will appear as dark areas on the scan.
A dark spot on your ultrasound doesn’t mean that you have breast
cancer. In fact, most breast lumps are benign. There are several conditions
that can cause benign lumps in the breast, including the following:
- An adenofibroma
is a benign tumor of the breast tissue.
breasts are breasts that are painful and lumpy due to hormonal changes.
- An intraductal
papilloma is a small, benign tumor of the milk duct.
fat necrosis is bruised, dead, or injured fat tissue that causes lumps.
If your doctor finds a lump that requires further testing, they
might perform an MRI first and then they’ll perform a biopsy to remove a sample
of tissue or fluid from the lump. The results of the biopsy will help your
doctor determine whether the lump is malignant, or cancerous.