Breast ultrasound uses sound waves that cannot be heard by humans to look at the breast.
See also: Breast biopsy - ultrasound
Ultrasonography of the breast; Sonogram of the breast
How the test is performed
You will be asked to undress from the waist up and put on a medical gown. During the test, you will lie on your back on the examining table.
A water-soluble gel is placed on the skin of the breast. A hand-held device (transducer) directs the sound waves to the breast tissue. The transducer is moved over the skin of the breast to create a picture that can be seen on a screen.
Breast ultrasound may also be used to guide a needle during a breast biopsy.
How to prepare for the test
Because you need to remove your clothing from the waist up, it may be helpful to wear a two-piece outfit. On the day of the test, do not use any lotions or powders on your breasts or wear deodorant under your arms.
How the test will feel
The number of people involved in the test will be limited to protect your privacy.
You will be asked to raise your arms above your head and turn to the left or right as needed.
There is no discomfort from the ultrasound.
Why the test is performed
If a breast lump is found during an exam or something abnormal is seen on your mammogram, an ultrasound can help show whether it is a solid mass or a cyst. It can also be used to check for a growth in the breast if a woman has clear or bloody nipple discharge.
Normally, the breast tissue will look the same and will not have any suspicious growths.
What abnormal results mean
Ultrasound can help show noncancerous growths such as:
- Cysts -- fluid-filled sacs
- Fibroadenomas -- noncancerous solid growths
- Lipomas -- noncancerous fatty lumps that can occur anywhere in the body, including the breasts
Breast cancers can also be seen with ultrasound.
What the risks are
There are no risks associated with breast ultrasound. There is no radiation exposure.
Kim CH, Bassett LW. Imaging-guided core needle biopsy of the breast. In: Bassett LW, Jackson VP, Fu KL, Fu YS, eds. Diagnosis of Diseases of the Breast. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2005:chap 17.
Abeloff MD, Wolff AC, Weber BL, et al. Cancer of the breast. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WB, eds. Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 95.
Whitman GJ. Ultrasound-guided breast biopsies. Ultrasound Clin. 2006;1:603-615.
Last reviewed 1/24/2011 by Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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