Breast Ultrasound

What is Breast Ultrasound?

Breast ultrasound is an imaging exam that uses sound waves to create images of breast tissue. The characteristics of ultrasound images make breast ultrasound an important complement to other imaging methods for breast screening and diagnosis, such as mammograms a breast MRI.

Doctors may recommend breast ultrasound for such purposes as:

  • Supplementary annual breast screening for women with certain risk factors, such as dense breasts, family history of breast cancer, or known genetic predisposition.
  • Follow-up diagnostic exam after suspicious findings on a mammogram or other breast screening.
  • Diagnostic evaluation after a physician exam reveals abnormalities such as a lump or an area that feels different from the rest of the breast.
  • As a substitute screening in certain specific situations, such as for patients who should not be exposed to radiation due to pregnancy or other concerns, or for those who for various reasons should not have an MRI.

Breast ultrasound exams generally take less than 30 minutes. The patient is positioned on an exam table. The exam is performed using an ultrasound probe, also called a transducer, a device that both emits and receives sound waves. It is attached to the ultrasound device.

To help the transducer make better contact with the patient’s skin, a clear gel is applied in the area to be examined. Based on reflected sound wave patterns, the ultrasound device generates and records images of the inside of the body as the technologist moves the transducer over the skin. The images, and sometimes motion video, are recorded so that a physician can read them and make a diagnostic interpretation.

Learn More

For more information about breast ultrasound and its applications, visit the Breast Ultrasound page on Radiology Info.