Breast Ultrasound

How a Breast Ultrasound Works, and What to Expect


Could you name at least one procedure that women should undertake to ensure their good health? Hmmm, let me try to name one – A breast ultrasound? Yes, according to health experts, an ultrasound of the breast is used by doctors to test (as well as assess) the size and shape of breast lumps and determine whether they could be tumorous growth, or fluid-filled cysts. Let’s look at the various uses of an ultrasound of the breast, and what to expect from the procedure (As well as how to prepare for it).


A breast ultrasound can help doctors and health experts evaluate lumps in the woman’s breast. Doctors use this procedure as an early diagnostic tool to evaluate breast lumps. Unlike X-rays and CT scans, this procedure does not utilise ionizing radiation.

For this reason, physicians often recommend a breast ultrasound for people who are not candidates for radiation-based imaging techniques and methods. The individuals who should avoid, or must not undergo the procedure include those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, are under the age of 25 years old, or have breast implants.

A physician may also recommend a breast ultrasound to help guide or maneuver a biopsy needle to collect tissue from a lump for evaluation or testing, and this procedure is referred to as an ultrasound-guided biopsy.

They could also request for a breast ultrasound after spotting or discovering a lump in the breast tissue during a routine physical examination or mammogram.  The doctor could also request the procedure to assess unusual nipple discharges, evaluating cases of mastitis (Or the inflammation of the mammary tissues), monitoring breast implants, assessing the signs and symptoms of breast pain, redness and swelling.

A breast ultrasound can also aid in examining skin changes like discolorations, to monitor existing benign breast lumps and to verify the results of imaging tests like an MRI scan or a mammogram.

What to Expect During a Breast ultrasound

Now, what should one expect during a breast ultrasound? Okay, for starters this procedure utilise high-frequency sound waves to create a black and white image of the breast structures and tissues.

Physicians often request this procedure to properly assess the shape and size of breast lumps, as well as to determine whether these are benign or tumorous growths or fluid-filled cysts.

Before undertaking the procedure, a few preparations need to be first done. Like, the patient should avoid applying powers or lotions into their skin before the test, because these may reduce or decrease the accuracy of the ultrasound images.

Most ultrasound procedures also take place in the hospital’s radiology department, although some may take place in a private or specialist clinic. It’s usually a sonographer who does the procedure, although a radiologist who carries out the test.

Some ladies who may have (Or suspect that they have) breast lumps usually would feel more comfortable working with a female sonographer. Thus, those who wish to have a woman perform the procedure should make this request in advance.

And, during a breast ultrasound procedure, it may be possible to bring a chaperone with you, whether it’s a family member, relative or nurse who can stay in the room during the test.

Those who undergo a breast ultrasound should wear separate items of clothing on the top and bottom, instead of a dress or one-piece outfit, because this avoids having to remove all the clothing. And, before I forget, please remove any form of metal on the body, like watches or jewelries, because these could interfere with the test results.

Now, for the actual procedure. A sonographer usually starts by examining the patient’s breasts. Most breast ultrasounds last from 15 to 30 minutes, and these are usually painless, but that’s unless the lump is tender or sore.

The procedure begins with the sonographer or radiologist physically examining the breast, after which they will ask the patient questions about the lump, like when did the person notice it, whether other symptoms are present, and how it has progressed.

After the breast ultrasound, the sonographer will apply a clear, cool gel to the breast. By limiting air bubbles, the gen enhances the ability of sound wave to move through the breast tissues and structures.

In some instances, the sonographer will place a triangular pillow under the shoulder of the patient. Which would cause the body to roll to one side. The sonographer could also raise the patient’s arm over their head, as these positions can make it easier for the sound waves to travel, as well as for the tissue to receive them.

The sonographer could also dim the lights in the room to make the computer screen and the ensuing images to become clearer. Once the sonographer has evenly spread the gel, he or she will pass through a wand-like device that’s called a transducer over the breast.

The transducer sends sound waves through the breast, and fully records the activity. Once a sound wave hits a breast structure or tissue, it then bounces back. The transducer sends the data or information to a computer about how the tissues or structures look, and will also take sill images at several different areas, as well as from different angles.

The sonographer could also create multiple still images of the lump and the nearby areas, as well as take short moving videos. Once the breast is fully scanned, the sonographer checks the patient’s armpit region for any hard or swollen lymph glands and nodes.

If the sonographer has any issues or concerns about the accuracy of the image, they could ask for a second opinion from a radiologist. Sometimes, the radiologist may also need to redo certain portions of the breast ultrasound to fully (as well as accurately) evaluate the area of concern.

Once the breast ultrasound is complete, the sonographer hands the patient a tissue to wipe off the gel, and then give them privacy to put their clothes back in. Before the patient leaves, the sonographer could schedule a follow-up appointment to fully discuss (Or interpret) the results with the patient.

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