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Breast ultrasound

Breast ultrasound is a diagnostic procedure that may be recommended to investigate a breast lump.

Ultrasound uses harmless high-frequency sound waves to show an image on a monitor screen in real-time. The aim is to determine whether there is a solid mass or a liquid cyst or sac.

Breast ultrasounds may be recommended for women under 35 instead of a mammogram.

The denser breasts in younger women make mammograms less effective as a diagnostic tool.

The ultrasound can also be used to pinpoint a location for a needle to be used to withdraw fluid or to take a biopsy tissue sample for laboratory testing.

If a cyst is found, and aspiration with a needle removes clear fluid and the mass disappears, no further treatment will usually be needed.

What happens during a breast ultrasound test?

  • No special preparation is needed for a breast ultrasound test.
  • You will be asked to change into a hospital gown so you may consider wearing a two-piece outfit on the day of the test so that you only need to remove your top.
  • You will lie on a padded examination table during the test.
  • A small amount of water-soluble gel is applied to the skin over the area to be examined. The gel does not harm your skin or stain your clothes.
  • A probe that looks like a little paddle is gently applied against the skin.
  • You may be asked to hold your breath briefly several times.
  • The ultrasound test takes about 10 minutes to complete.
  • After the test, the gel will be wiped off your skin.
  • Your doctor will discuss the test results with you once these are available.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 12, 2018

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