The breast is a very delicate organ and much care should be given to it - especially if you have suspicions of cancer. You're probably familiar with mammograms and self-breast examinations. However, these exams may only tell part of the story, and your physician might request a breast ultrasound to further examine any suspicious areas and make a proper diagnosis.
A breast ultrasound is a super effective screening method. Its images complement those obtained from a mammogram and together create a more complete understanding of the breast tissue. But what is a breast ultrasound?
What is a Breast Ultrasound?
Breast ultrasound employs high frequency sound waves to create precise pictures of your breast tissue. During a breast ultrasound procedure, a medical expert uses a transducer that emits sound waves, and gently moves it over the skin to painlessly collect pictures of the interior breast tissue.
What are Other Types of Breast Ultrasound?
Another type of ultrasound procedure that can be used to examine the breast is called automated breast ultrasound (ABUS) or automated whole-breast ultrasound. ABUS is different from the regular breast ultrasound; it uses a bigger transducer to produce three-dimensional pictures of your whole breast. While typical ultrasound does not use contrast to aid imaging, research is ongoing to determine if contrast-enhanced ultrasound can generate clearer pictures of tumors and other abnormalities in the breast.
Are Breast Ultrasound Tests Safe?
Yes, breast ultrasounds are safe. Ultrasounds differ from other imaging tests like CT scans, mammography, and X-rays in that they do not involve radiation. It is considered a safe exam for pregnant women.
Why You Might Need a Breast Ultrasound
Usually, a breast ultrasound is performed as a follow-up exam after a mammogram. It is recommended if a mammogram shows an abnormality in the breast tissue or as a routine adjunct for people with dense breasts. Often, it is used to determine the composition of a lump (a solid tumor or a fluid-filled cyst), where the lump is located, and how big or small it is.
A breast ultrasound is recommended when a medical expert notices any of these abnormalities in the breast:
* Tenderness or pain
* Change in the feel or appearance of the nipple or skin
* Disturbing discharge of fluid from the nipple
In expectant mothers, women under the age of 25, and individuals with a lot of breast tissue, a breast ultrasound may be used instead of a mammogram to check for breast cancer. Breast ultrasound can also be used to look for leaks or other issues with breast implants.
However, while the ultrasound provides precise imagery of the tissue, it may not detect very small lumps that can be seen in a mammogram.
Your physician will review your medical history with you to ensure you undergo the most advantageous set of tests and procure optimal imaging.
What to Expect For Your Ultrasound
Breast ultrasounds are typically performed in the office. Based on your medical situation and your medical provider's equipment, the test may be conducted differently.
Here's what to expect during your ultrasound procedure:
* You'll be requested to take off all jewelry above your waist, and to wear a gown on the top half of your body.
* You will be asked to lie on an exam table. As the lights in the exam room are dimmed, you will be asked to roll toward one side and lift one arm over your head on the side of the breast to be examined.
* A transparent, warm gel will be applied to the skin over the breast.
* The transducer will be gently pressed against your skin and moved slowly around the area being examined. You may hear a slight clicking noise as images are being captured.
* Once complete, the technologist will clean off the gel and ask that you get dressed.
After Your Ultrasound
After your breast ultrasound exam, you may continue on with your day. If you need any special follow-ups, your radiologic technologist or physician at Connecticut Breast Imaging will meet with you to guide you as to next steps.
Breast ultrasound continues to be an invaluable tool for detecting early stage breast abnormalities or cancers. As a powerful breast screening method, Connecticut Breast Imaging is pleased to be able to provide patients with the most advanced ultrasound technology in a caring and compassionate setting.