Safe and non-invasive, a breast ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to look at the structure of your breast tissue. Learn about the science, the benefits, and the experience.
What is a breast ultrasound?
Breast ultrasound scanning (also called sonography) examines the inside of your breast by sending out high-frequency sound waves with an instrument called a transducer, which then reads them back as they echo off of your soft tissues. A connected computer snaps pictures of the images from different angles.
Your doctor might order a breast ultrasound if your breast tissue is especially dense and hard to read on a mammogram, as ultrasound can help examine benign cysts, tumors, and lesions, or specific cancers and other abnormalities.
What should I expect from this scan?
There are two types of breast ultrasound: a screening ultrasound—used on patients with no current symptoms—and a diagnostic ultrasound, performed on patients whose physicians want a closer look at abnormalities discovered via other imaging tests. A breast ultrasound can also be used as a way to assist doctors performing a needle biopsy, as a way to collect cells and tissue for further testing.
In all cases, because an ultrasound does not rely on the use of radiation, the procedure is completely safe for patients, and does not require any special preparation prior to your appointment.
You’ll simply undress from the waist up, wear a gown, and will be asked to lie down with your arm raised above your head. A specially-trained imaging technologist will smear some conductive, water-based gel on your skin, which will aid in sliding a small, hand-held instrument called the transducer over your body. The transducer sends out safe, high-frequency sound waves throughout your breast tissue, which are displayed in real time on a monitor, while a series of pictures are taken of your breast from various angles.
On average your breast ultrasound exam should take less than 30 minutes. Should there be anything we can do to help make your time with us more comfortable, we’d love to. Please don’t hesitate to ask your technician about questions, concerns, or special requests.
After your breast ultrasound, you’ll have the opportunity to clean yourself of gel, dress, and gather your things. Then, you’re free to leave.
Our radiologists will assess and interpret the images and send a report to your physician that same day. And then you’ll receive a notification from your physician’s office with interpretations and recommendations.