Author: Dr Monica Pahuja*

What is a breast ultrasound?

This is an examination using high-resolution ultrasound equipment to assess the breast tissue in patients who have breast symptoms or where additional imaging information is required (see indications, below). It is particularly useful in younger patients who generally have denser breasts where mammography may miss focal pathology, keeping unnecessary radiation exposure to a minimum.

What are the generally accepted indications for a breast ultrasound?

Breast ultrasound is the preferred imaging technique in patients whose breasts contain dense glandular tissue, such as those aged younger than 35 years or in lactating breasts. It is useful in the following clinical situations:

  • Evaluation of a palpable lump(s) in the breast.
  • Evaluation of breast symptoms in young women (in whom mammography is less useful due to the density of their breast tissue).
  • Evaluation of a mass detected on a mammogram, allowing the mass to be characterised as solid or cystic.
  • Localisation and characterisation of mass lesions detected by MRI screening, enabling them to be biopsied or localised before surgery.
  • As an adjunct to evaluation of the mammographically dense breast, even when no focal lesion is seen on the mammogram.
  • Evaluation of the integrity of breast implants.

What are the prerequisites for having a breast ultrasound done?

Patients who have symptoms, clinical concern or clinical signs related to one or both breasts.

What are the absolute contraindications for a breast ultrasound?

There are no absolute contraindications.

What are the relative contraindications for a breast ultrasound?

There are no medical contraindications, but some patients may feel uncomfortable about the procedure unless they are appropriately chaperoned.

What are the adverse effects of a breast ultrasound?

There are no adverse effects of a breast ultrasound.

Is there any specific post procedural care required following a breast ultrasound?


Are there alternative imaging tests, interventions or surgical procedures to a breast ultrasound?

Breast ultrasound is often complementary to other breast imaging as a problem solving and biopsy guidance tool (see prerequisites, above). In patients with a normal ultrasound examination who have symptoms or clinical abnormalities related to one or both breasts, then mammography, tomosynthesis or MRI may be required for further diagnostic assessment.

Useful websites about breast ultrasound:

Cancer Australia – Breast Cancer

Diagnostic Imaging Pathways

*The author has no conflict of interest with this topic.

Page last modified on 31/8/2018.

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