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Dr Monica Pahuja
Date last modified: November 28, 2015
Breast ultrasound is the examination of the breast tissue using an ultrasound scan. Ultrasound uses high frequency soundwaves to produce images (or pictures) of the body that are displayed on a screen.
Ultrasound of the breast helps to distinguish fluid filled lumps in the breast (cysts) from solid lumps which may be cancerous or benign (non-cancerous). It is often useful to examine the breasts of younger women because the breast tissue is much denser than it is in older women, and this density can make it harder to detect an abnormality if a mammogram is performed.
Ultrasound is also used to diagnose problems such as complications from mastitis (an infection that occurs most often during breastfeeding), to assess abnormal nipple discharge, to assess problems with breast implants and to guide the placement of a needle during biopsies.
No preparation is necessary for this examination.
It is advisable to wear a two piece outfit so that only your top has to be removed to provide access to the breast area.
You will be asked to remove your top and bra and change into a gown.
You will be asked to lie on a bed and one breast at a time will be examined.
A triangular sponge will be placed behind your shoulder so that you are rolled slightly onto your side. This helps position the breast to make scanning more effective.
Gel is applied to the skin and an ultrasound probe (called a transducer) is placed on the breast and gently moved around the breast to examine the breast tissue.
Examination of the armpit (or axilla) will also be undertaken to assess for any enlarged lymph glands (or nodes – a lump or swelling). See ultrasound for further details.
There are no after effects of a breast ultrasound.
The examination takes between 15-30 minutes.
Sometimes the sonographer will ask you to wait and have the images checked by the radiologist (specialist doctor). Sometimes it will be necessary for the radiologist to attend the examination because it may be important to see the images on the screen rather than as still photographs. The radiologist may also want to examine your breast if you have a symptom (like a lump or skin changes) and might also ask you some questions about these symptoms. This extra information may help the radiologist to understand your ultrasound pictures in order to give an accurate diagnosis.
There are no risks from ultrasound. Even if you are pregnant you are able to safely have an ultrasound examination.
Ultrasound examination allows the detection and identification of most breast lumps.
Ultrasound can also help to diagnose:
They may be male or female. If you are not comfortable with a male you should let the reception staff know this prior to having the test. In cases where the patient is young, a female chaperone may be requested (usually a nurse at the hospital or practice). A female parent, other relative, friend, or male partner can stay with you during the examination if you are more comfortable with this.
The examination is performed in a radiology department of a hospital, private radiology practice, or at a specialist clinic. The examination is performed in the privacy of an ultrasound room which may be dimly lit to allow the images on the ultrasound machine to be clearly seen by the person performing the scanning.
A full report of the scan will be written by the radiologist and sent to your referring doctor. The time that it takes your doctor to receive a written report on the test or procedure you have had will vary, depending on:
Please feel free to ask the private practice, clinic, or hospital where you are having your test or procedure when the written report will be provided to your doctor.
It is important that you discuss the results with the doctor who referred you, either in person or on the telephone, so that they can explain what the results mean for you.
Cancer Australia – Breast Cancer