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Breast Ultrasound FAQ

Why do I need a breast ultrasound?

Breast ultrasound is used to:

  • Check a breast lump found on breast self-examination, clinical breast examination or mammogram. It is used to see whether a breast lump is fluid-filled (a cyst) or if it is a solid lump. A lump that has no fluid or that has fluid with floating particles may need more tests.

  • Check the breasts of younger women because their breast tissue is often more dense, and a mammogram may not show as much detail. 

  • Guide the placement of a needle or other tube to drain a collection of pus (abscess), take a sample of breast tissue (biopsy), or guide breast surgery. 

  • Monitor the growth of a cyst or guide the placement of a needle to drain the cyst. 

  • Check your breasts if you have silicone breast implants or dense breasts. In these situations, a mammogram may not be able to see breast lumps. 

  • Find the cause of breast symptoms, such as pain, swelling, and redness.

How should I prepare for my breast ultrasound?

We suggest you wear a two-piece outfit so that it is easy to undress above the waist.
Talk to the breast surgeon about any concerns you have about the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean.

How is the breast ultrasound done?

A breast ultrasound is done by a radiologist or breast surgeon.
You will be asked to undress above the waist. You will be given a gown to drape around your shoulders and asked to remove all jewellery 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 screen.
A breast ultrasound test usually takes about 15 minutes. More time may be needed if a breast exam is 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.

How will my breast ultrasound feel?

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 because of 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.

What are the risks of breast ultrasound?

There are no known risks in having a breast ultrasound test.

When will I get the results of my breast ultrasound?

A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to make a picture of the tissues inside the breast.

The radiologist may discuss the results of the ultrasound with you straight after the test.

What affects the test?

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 area.

What else should I know about breast ultrasound?

An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy may allow the breast surgeon to check a suspicious lump without surgery. 
An ultrasound does not replace a mammogram but it can be used to check a problem seen on a mammogram. It can also be used to show more detail in women who have dense breasts.

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