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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.
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:
The examination is performed by a health professional specially trained and accredited to perform the test, such as a sonographer, sonologist, radiologist (specialist doctor) or a breast physician.
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
Page last modified on 26/7/2017.
RANZCR® is not aware that any person intends to act or rely upon the opinions, advices or information contained in this publication or of the manner in which it might be possible to do so. It issues no invitation to any person to act or rely upon such opinions, advices or information or any of them and it accepts no responsibility for any of them.
RANZCR® intends by this statement to exclude liability for any such opinions, advices or information. The content of this publication is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. It is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient and his/her doctor. Some of the tests and procedures included in this publication may not be available at all radiology providers.
RANZCR® recommends that any specific questions regarding any procedure be discussed with a person's family doctor or medical specialist. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, RANZCR®, its Board, officers and employees assume no responsibility for its content, use, or interpretation. Each person should rely on their own inquires before making decisions that touch their own interests.