A breast ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging test used to examine the tissues inside the breast. By exposing the breasts to high-frequency sound waves, images of the breast tissue are created. These images are captured in real time and can show internal movement as well as blood flow within the blood vessels in the area.
Purpose of a Breast Ultrasound
A breast ultrasound is commonly performed after breast abnormalities are found during a physical examination or mammogram. A breast ultrasound can be used to:
- Determine the cause of breast symptoms
- Diagnose a cyst or lump in the breast
- Monitor the size of a cyst
- Guide the placement of a needle for a biopsy or drainage procedure
A breast ultrasound should not be performed in place of a mammogram, but is a supplemental test to further screen for any potential problems.
Benefits of a Breast Ultrasound
A breast ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure that involves no preparation or discomfort. It provides doctors with real time images of the breast in order to help detect and diagnose abnormalities, offering a clear picture of soft tissues that do not show up on X-ray images. This procedure does not expose the patient to any iodizing radiation and is considered safe for nearly all patients.
The Breast Ultrasound Procedure
During the breast ultrasound procedure, gel is applied to the breast to help the transducer pick up sound waves as it is moved back and forth across the breast. The patient lies on her back with her arms raised above the head. As the transducer is moved across the breast, an image of the breast tissue appears on a computer monitor. The procedure takes about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on whether other procedures are being performed at the same time.