In ultrasonography, or ultrasound, high frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, are transmitted through the breast. The echoes are recorded and transformed into video and photographic images. The sound waves are directed at an area of interest through the use of a probe. This allows for close evaluation of a small area of tissue.

How is ultrasound used to image the breast?

Ultrasound is not used as a screening tool. Ultrasound can help determine if an area palpated (pressed on) during an exam or seen on a mammogram is:

  • Solid tissue
  • Filled with fluid
  • Normal tissue

What happens during a breast ultrasound?

There is no special preparation for the ultrasound test.

The board-certified radiologist will perform the breast ultrasound.

  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown. You may consider wearing a two-piece outfit the day of your test so you only need to remove your top.
  • You will lie on an exam table during the ultrasound. The lights will be low to aid in visualization.
  • A small amount of warm, water-soluble gel is applied to the skin over the area of the breast to be examined. The gel does not harm your skin or stain your clothes.
  • A probe is applied against the skin of the breast. Usually, some pressure is applied to aid in good visualization and pictures are taken.

After the ultrasound exam, the radiologist will discuss the test results with you.

Approximately 10% to 20% of the time, the radiologist will want to investigate further, by scheduling either a needle biopsy or a follow-up appointment within a short period of time.

If you are under thirty years of age or are pregnant, ultrasound may be used alone or first. This decision is made by the radiologist. If you are not sure of pregnancy, the radiologist might want you to have a pregnancy test.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/14/2014...#9575