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Breast ultrasound

Definition

Breast ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to examine the breasts.

Alternative Names

Ultrasonography of the breast; Sonogram of the breast

How the test is performed

You will be asked to undress from the waist up and put on a medical gown.

During the test, you will lie on your back on the examining table.

The doctor or nurse will place a gel on the skin on the breast. A hand-held device (called transducer) is rubbed over the breast area. You will be asked to raise your arms above your head and turn to the left or right as needed.

The device sends sound waves to the breast tissue. The sound waves help create a picture that can be seen on a computer screen.

The number of people involved in the test will be limited to protect your privacy.

Breast ultrasound may also be used to guide a needle during a breast biopsy.

How to prepare for the test

You may want to wear a two-piece outfit, so you do not have to completely undress.

On the day of the test, do not use any lotions or powders on your breasts. Do not wear deodorant under your arms.

How the test will feel

This test usually does not cause any discomfort.

Why the test is performed

Your doctor may order this test if you have:

  • A breast lump found during a breast exam
  • An abnormal mammogram

A breast ultrasound can help:

  • Tell the difference between a solid mass or a cyst
  • Look for a growth if you have clear or bloody fluid coming from your nipple

Normal Values

A normal result means the breast tissue appears normal.

What abnormal results mean

Ultrasound can help show noncancerous growths such as:

  • Cysts -- fluid-filled sacs
  • Fibroadenomas -- noncancerous solid growths
  • Lipomas -- noncancerous fatty lumps that can occur anywhere in the body, including the breasts

Breast cancers can also be seen with ultrasound.

Follow-up tests to determine treatment may be needed:

What the risks are

There are no risks associated with breast ultrasound. There is no radiation exposure.

References

Stavros TA, The Breast. In: Rumack CM, Wilson SR, Charboneau JM et al. eds. Diagnostic Ultrasound.  Philadelphia Pa:, Mosby Elsevier, 2010:chap 20.

Lee, Carol H., et al. "Breast cancer screening with imaging: recommendations from the Society of Breast Imaging and the ACR on the use of mammography, breast MRI, breast ultrasound, and other technologies for the detection of clinically occult breast cancer." Journal of the American College of Radiology: JACR 7.1 (2010): 18.



 


Review Date: 12/9/2012
Reviewed By: Javed Qureshi, MD, Diplomate, American Board of Radiology, Victoria Radiology Associates, Victoria, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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