Ultrasound Imaging of the Breast: What are its Uses?

Jan 29, 2019 | Cancer, Womens Health

Ultrasound imaging of the breast uses sound waves to produce pictures of the internal structures of the breast. Unlike CT scans and X-rays, an ultrasound does not use ionising radiation. Ultrasound can be offered as a screening tool for women who:

  •  are at high risk of breast cancer and unable to undergo an MRI examination.
  •  are pregnant, or should not be exposed to X-rays which are necessary for a mammogram).
  •  have increased breast density (when the breasts have a lot of glandular and connective tissue and not much fatty tissue).

Ultrasound is primarily used to help diagnose breast lumps or other abnormalities yourself, or your doctor may have found during a physical exam, mammogram or breast MRI. Other uses of breast ultrasound are:

  • Assessing unusual nipple discharge
  • Evaluating cases of mastitis (inflammation of the mammary tissues)
  • Monitoring breast implants
  • Assessing symptoms, such as breast pain, redness, and swelling
  • Examining skin changes, such as discoloration
  • Monitoring existing benign breast lumps
  • Verifying the results of other imaging tests, such as an MRI scan or a mammogram

The Role of Ultrasound in Breast Cancer Screening

Mammography is the only screening tool for breast cancer that is known to reduce deaths due to breast cancer through early detection. Even so, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. Some breast lesions and abnormalities are not visible or are difficult to interpret on mammograms. Breasts that are considered dense, have a lot of glandular and connective tissues and not much fatty tissue, and that makes cancer harder to detect.

Many studies have shown that ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help supplement mammography by detecting breast cancers that may not be visible with mammography. MRI is more sensitive than ultrasound in depicting breast cancer, but MRI may not be available to all women. If screening MRI is performed, then screening ultrasound is not needed, though ultrasound may be used to characterise and biopsy abnormalities seen on MRI. When ultrasound is used for screening, abnormalities not visible with mammography may be identified, including some that may require biopsy. Many of the abnormalities found with screening breast ultrasound are not cancer (false positives).

Ultrasound-guided Breast Biopsy

When an ultrasound examination reveals a suspicious breast abnormality, a physician may choose to perform an ultrasound-guided biopsy. Because ultrasound provides real-time images, it is often used to guide biopsy procedures. An ultrasound exam will usually need to be performed before the biopsy in order to plan the procedure and to determine if this method of biopsy can be used.

If you have any breast-related worries, any personal or family history of breast cancer and wish to have a Breast Ultrasound for first diagnosis or reassurance, please do not hesitate to contact us at (attach contact info link) For more information on our breast clinic services, please visit each of our in-detail information pages about each scan here.

No referral? No worry - book now for direct access to our ultrasound service.

We support both self-pay and insured patients. If you are self-funding, you can request to book a scan online within minutes. If you are insured, please contact our team to discuss your imaging request and arrange an appointment.