Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Breast Ultrasound
ultrasound uses sound waves to make a picture of the
tissues inside the breast. A breast ultrasound can show all areas of the
breast, including the area closest to the chest wall, which is hard to study
mammogram. Breast ultrasound does not use
X-rays or other potentially harmful types of
A breast ultrasound is used to see whether a breast
lump is filled with fluid (a
cyst) or if it is a solid lump. An ultrasound does not
replace the need for a mammogram, but it is often used to check abnormal
results from a mammogram.
For a breast ultrasound, a small
handheld unit called a
transducer is gently passed back and forth over the
breast. A computer turns the sound waves into a picture on a TV screen. The
picture is called a sonogram or ultrasound scan.
Breast ultrasound can add important information to the results of other tests, such as a mammogram or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It also may provide information that is not found with a mammogram. A breast ultrasound may be done to:
Wear a two-piece outfit so that it is
easy to undress above the waist.
Talk to your doctor
about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it
will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the
importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
A breast ultrasound is usually done by
a specially trained technologist.
You will be asked to undress
above the waist. You will be given a gown to drape around your shoulders.
Remove all jewelry from around your neck.
Gel will be put on your
breast so the transducer can pick up the sound waves as it is moved back and
forth over the breast. A picture of the breast tissue can be seen on a TV
A breast ultrasound test usually takes between 15 and 30
minutes. More time may be needed if a breast exam will be done or if a biopsy
is also planned. You may be asked to wait until a
radiologist has reviewed the pictures. The radiologist
may want to do more ultrasound views of some areas of your breast.
The gel may feel cold when it is put on
your breast. You will feel light pressure from the transducer as it passes over
your breast, but you should feel no discomfort unless your breast is tender
fibrocystic breast changes, an abscess, or another
infection. You will not hear the sound waves. A special Doppler ultrasound may
be used to check the blood flow to the breast; you can hear the sound waves
from this type of ultrasound.
There are no known risks in having a breast
ultrasound uses sound waves to make of picture of the
tissues inside of the breast.
radiologist may discuss the results of the ultrasound
with you right after the test. Complete results are usually available to your
doctor in 1 to 2 days.
You may not be able to have the
test or the results may not be helpful if you have an open wound in the breast
Other Works Consulted
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerLaura S. Dominici, MD - General Surgery,
Current as ofMay 3, 2017
Current as of:
May 3, 2017
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Laura S. Dominici, MD - General Surgery,
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.