A breast ultrasound is a non-invasive, radiation-free exam that uses sound waves to evaluate and produce images of breast tissue. Ultrasound can be used to further evaluate an area of concern seen on a mammogram or image a region of clinical concern. It can also be used as a supplementary screening tool, especially in women with dense breast tissue. Ultrasound provides real-time imaging and can be used to guide procedures like biopsies. Ultrasound can help a radiologist differentiate between fluid-filled, fatty, or solid masses.
Breast ultrasound uses sound waves to capture images of the breast tissue. This can be utilized as a diagnostic tool to evaluate lumps and abnormalities that are present in the breast. Ultrasound can help in the evaluation of dense breast tissue. Breast ultrasound is a diagnostic exam and requires a physician’s order to schedule an appointment.
A breast ultrasound takes 15-30 minutes to perform, however, the appointment may be one hour or longer if a diagnostic mammogram is also needed. During your visit, we capture images of the breast and provide an assessment and plan.
You may need a breast ultrasound if the breast radiologist would like additional information to complete the diagnostic interpretation following a mammogram. It may also be ordered if you have very dense breasts, if you are pregnant and have a concerning change in your breast, if you have a palpable lump, or if you are too young for a mammogram.
Ultrasound is not a substitute for annual mammograms, but rather is used as a secondary supplemental diagnostic aid in addition to a screening or diagnostic mammogram. Mammography is the most effective breast cancer screening method and is proven to increase the chance of survival through earlier detection.
A breast ultrasound can be used to detect cysts, benign lumps, dense breast tissue, and cancerous masses. During biopsies, it provides image guidance in locating a mass in the breast.
Ultrasound is optional for evaluation of dense breast tissue, and can be used as a diagnostic tool for evaluating lumps or abnormalities.
An ultrasound can help discern whether a lump in a breast is a cyst (a fluid-filled sac) or a solid mass and can provide details on the other characteristics – shape, size, borders. While some of these features might suggest a benign or malignant mass, biopsy may be needed to determine what a solid mass is. Cysts can easily be recognized by an ultrasound. A breast ultrasound can also help determine the positioning of a mass and is frequently used to provide image guidance during a breast biopsy.
You will lie on your back on an exam table and may need to raise your arms above your head. Clear, warm gel is put in the area to be examined. The ultrasound transducer will be pressed firmly against the skin for imaging. The breast radiologist will review the findings and your results with you.
Preparing for Your Exam
On the day of your exam:
- Wear a two-piece outfit. You will need to remove only your top and bra. We provide comfortable privacy capes to wear during your procedure.
- Do not apply any lotions, powders, deodorant or cosmetics to your breasts prior to your ultrasound, which can interfere with the accuracy of the screening
- Ultrasound is non-invasive and you will be free to resume normal activities immediately following your exam.
- If this is your first mammogram with Washington Radiology, bring your mammography records or have them transferred before your appointment. Your old records will be compared to your new exam images for a thorough evaluation by our breast radiologists. Delay in transferring records can result in delayed delivery of mammogram results.
- Arrive 15 minutes before your appointment and bring the name of your physician to whom we should send your mammography report.
- Call us if you have questions before your appointment.
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