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A breast ultrasound is a diagnostic test used to evaluate signs and symptoms of breast cancer and evaluate findings seen on a mammogram or MRI exam.  Ultrasound, also called sonography, works by using sound waves to create images of body tissue. It is a completely safe, non-invasive test that helps diagnose breast cancer. There is no preparation necessary prior to arriving at the test location, and it is not painful. 

Breast ultrasound is different from both mammography and an MRI of the breast. Unlike mammography, it does not use radiation. And unlike MRI exams, it is more comfortable, easily accessible to most women and is a less expensive option. 

Ultrasound of the breast can be used to help determine whether there is a breast abnormality and, if there is, what type of abnormality exists. Ultrasound evaluates breast masses, focal pain, and nipple discharge evaluated by your health care provider. It can also evaluate suspected abnormalities seen on tests, like a mammogram or an MRI of the breast. Ultrasound can help determine whether lumps are solid, fluid filled, or a combination of the two.

Some of the abnormalities and signs and symptoms of breast cancer that a breast ultrasound can help evaluate include:

  • breast lumps including suspected cysts
  • nipple discharge
  • asymmetric breast tissue
  • masses seen on mammography or MRI
  • focal persistent pain
  • dense breast tissue that can make it difficult to find an abnormality on a mammogram

If a breast abnormality is found during the ultrasound, the radiologist may perform or schedule you for an ultrasound guided breast biopsy. During this procedure, an ultrasound transducer (the wand that picks up sound waves to help create the images) will be used to visualize the area that will be biopsied (using a needle) to ensure the biopsy is taken from the correct area of the breast. Local anesthesia will be injected into the site before any intervention is done.

Screening breast ultrasound

While mammography is the recommended screening test for breast cancer, it does not detect all cancers. There are some cancers that cannot be seen with mammography, and dense breast tissue is one reason for this. MRI scans can be an excellent choice for detecting breast cancer, but many women do not have access to MRI scans. In addition MRI involves the injection of a dye (Gadolinium).

Screening breast ultrasound can be helpful for women who:

  • cannot have an MRI and are at high risk for breast cancer
  • should not be exposed to X-ray radiation (due to pregnancy or other concerns)
  • have very dense breast tissue

Screening Ultrasound is used as a secondary test for evaluation after mammography.

Limitations of breast ultrasound

While ultrasound can be an important diagnostic tool for breast cancer, it should not be relied upon as the only tool. Make sure you work closely with your doctor if you have any lumps or breast abnormalities, and consult your health care provider about which exams are right for you and when you should have them. 

Breast ultrasound options at Beaumont

At Beaumont, we offer the full array of breast cancer screening and diagnostic tests, including ultrasound, image-guided  (stereotactic, Ultrasound and MRI)breast biopsy, screening and diagnostic mammography, 2-D and 3-D digital mammography, MRI, and nuclear medicine (scintimammography). 

Automated whole-breast ultrasound Invenia ABUS 2.0 breast cancer screening is specifically developed to help doctors find cancers hidden in dense breast tissue, which may be missed by mammography. If you have dense breast tissue, the addition of automated whole-breast ultrasound screening can improve the detection of cancer.

When you have a breast ultrasound, you should choose a facility that has expertise in performing and interpreting the results of breast ultrasound. Beaumont is a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence in Michigan, and we offer all our patients leading edge mammography and breast cancer diagnostic services.

Make an appointment today

Don’t wait. Call 800-328-8542 today to schedule your next breast imaging appointment.