A breast ultrasound is a test that uses high-frequency sound waves to form images of tissues and other structures inside the breast.
Doctors may recommend this test so that they can:
An ultrasound may also be used to evaluate a woman who has possible signs of breast cancer. In some cases, this test is used instead of a mammogram. Some examples of when this test might be used include:
The test takes about 15 minutes. A healthcare provider can perform this test in an office, clinic, or hospital. Usually, a woman puts on a hospital gown that opens at the front before the test.
There are two ways to perform the test.
In either method, the sound waves bounce off internal tissues of the breast and then return to the scanning tool. A computer converts the sound waves into a black-and-white image. The healthcare provider can then read this image of the internal part of the breast.
In some cases at the time of the ultrasound, a doctor may insert a needle into the breast to obtain tissue for a breast biopsy. The images from the ultrasound help guide the needle into the right area of the breast.
When the test is finished, the healthcare provider will dry the breast or wipe the gel off. The woman may then dress and leave.
On the day of the test, the woman should not put any lotions or powders on her breast. No other preparation is generally required.
Test results are usually sent to the woman's healthcare provider, who then discusses them with her. In some cases, ultrasound will show no problem in the breast. Abnormal findings may include:
Author:Francesca Coltrera, BA
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Reviewer:Adam Brochert, MD
American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine. "Ultrasound-General Information" Last updated 3/23/00.
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