At the Jim & Eleanor Randall Breast Center, breast ultrasounds are performed as part of our multimodality approach to breast care. Breast ultrasound, also known as sonography, is an imaging method in which high-frequency sound waves are used to outline a part of the body. High-frequency sound waves above the level of hearing are transmitted through the area of the body being studied. The sound wave echoes are picked up and translated by a computer into an image that is displayed on a computer screen. No radiation exposure occurs during this test.
Some studies have suggested that breast ultrasound be considered in screening women with dense breast tissue (which is difficult to evaluate by routine mammography). But, use of screening breast ultrasound instead of mammography is not recommended because small calcium deposits, which may be the earliest signs of breast cancer, are not visible by breast ultrasound. Breast ultrasound is useful for evaluation of some breast masses in addition to mammography, and is the only way to tell if a cyst is present without placing a needle into it to aspirate the fluid. Cysts cannot be accurately diagnosed on physical examination alone. Breast ultrasound may also be used to help doctors precisely guide a biopsy needle into some breast lesions.
What are the common uses of Breast Ultrasound?
Breast ultrasound may be used in several ways. Its most common application is to investigate a specific area in the breast where a problem is suspected. A palpable lump and/or an abnormality discovered on a mammogram can be further evaluated by breast ultrasound. It is especially helpful in distinguishing between a fluid filled cyst and a solid soft tissue mass. A structure, which has certain characteristics that prove it to be a simple cyst, can be confidently diagnosed as benign. Breast ultrasound diagnosis of solid soft tissue masses is less straight forward, but in many cases normal tissue, or benign (non-cancerous) lumps can be differentiated from probably malignant (cancerous) tissue with breast ultrasound.
Breast ultrasound is often the first study performed to evaluate masses in women less than 35 years of age whose mammograms can be difficult to interpret. The absence of x-rays makes it ideal for studying breast abnormalities in women who are pregnant. Assessing breast implants for leakage or rupture is another way breast ultrasound is used. Breast inflammation, where pockets of infection or abscesses may form, can be diagnosed, and monitored by ultrasound. These collections can be drained by a needle under breast ultrasound guidance.
Breast ultrasound is employed to observe and guide a needle for several interventional procedures. These include cyst aspiration, fine needle aspiration, large core needle biopsy and needle localization before surgical breast biopsy.
How should I prepare for Breast Ultrasound?
You should wear comfortable, two-piece clothing. No other preparation is required.