WHAT IS A BREAST ULTRASOUND?
Breast ultrasound is a noninvasive medical test that uses sound waves (not x-rays) from a hand-held unit called a transducer to produce pictures of the inside of the breast.
An ultrasound test may be useful if your mammogram shows a mass, or if a lump is felt during a breast exam that may or may not be seen on a mammogram. A breast ultrasound examination is not considered a screening test, nor does it replace a mammogram.
The ultrasound machine can create an image that often allows the radiologist to distinguish between a fluid-filled cyst and a solid mass. Mammograms do not make this distinction, though they are better than ultrasounds at detecting microcalcifications, which can be an early sign of breast cancer.
An ultrasound unit is a machine that contains a computer, electronics, a display screen, and a transducer. The transducer is a small, hand-held device that is attached to the scanner by a special cord. The transducer sends out inaudible sound waves into the breast and then detects the returning echoes from the breast tissue. The ultrasound image is immediately visible on the machine’s screen, which looks much like a computer or television monitor.
COMMON BREAST ULTRASOUND USES:
1. Further evaluate a finding seen on a mammogram or magnetic resonance imaging test.
2. Evaluate a palpable breast lump; To determine whether a breast lump is fluid-filled (a cyst) or a solid mass.
3. Help try to find the cause of breast symptoms, such as focal pain, redness, or nipple discharge.
4. Image women under the age of 30 years old, or who may be pregnant or lactating and have a palpable lump.
5. Provide guidance for minimally invasive procedures such cyst aspiration or core needle biopsy.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR THE TEST?
You will be asked to undress from the waist up and to wear a gown during the procedure, so be sure to wear an easily removable top.
HOW IS THE PROCEDURE PERFORMED?
You will lie on your back with your arm raised above your head on the exam table. A water-based gel that has been warmed is applied to the area of the breast to be studied. The gel helps the transducer make contact with the breast and eliminates air between the transducer and the skin. The radiologist then places the transducer against the skin and moves it back and forth over the area of concern
HOW LONG IS THE TEST?
The ultrasound examination is usually completed in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the mammogram and physical exam findings.
WHAT WILL I EXPERIENCE DURING AND AFTER THE ULTRASOUND?
Most ultrasound examinations are completely painless. There generally is no discomfort from pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined. If you have an area that is already tender, you may feel some pressure or some minor temporary pain from the transducer.
WHO INTERPRETS THE TEST?
A radiologist, a physician trained to interpret radiology breast tests, will evaluate the images and send a signed report to your referring physician.
HOW DO I GET MY RESULTS?
The radiologist will discuss the results of the ultrasound with you after the test.