For more patient information on breast ultrasounds
What is a Breast Ultrasound?
A breast ultrasound is a safe, painless procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce
pictures of the internal structures of your breast and axilla (armpit). It can be used for either screening
or diagnostic purposes.
It can also be used as a screening tool for women who are pregnant or should not be exposed to x-rays
(necessary for a mammogram) or have very dense breasts.
Screening automated breast ultrasound (ABUS)
Dense breast tissue can make it harder for radiologists to find cancer on a mammogram since it can
mask the appearance of tumors and may slightly increase your breast cancer risk.
To get a better look at dense breast tissue, our screening protocol is a Digital Breast Tomosynthesis
mammogram supplemented by an Automated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS). This combination of advanced
technologies has been proven to increase detection of breast cancer in women with dense breasts by up
to 36% compared to using mammography alone.
ABUS is a comfortable, quick exam. Your technologist will ask you to lie on the exam table and will apply
a warm, water-based gel over your breast. A wide transducer will automatically scan your breast
creating hundreds of 3-D breast tissue images. The full exam takes about 15 minutes and you should not
feel any discomfort.
Diagnostic ultrasound exams
Following your screening mammogram, your radiologist or your healthcare practitioner may want to
look more closely at a targeted area in your breast tissue with a diagnostic breast ultrasound. Your
practitioner may also request a diagnostic ultrasound if you have a lump or you are having pain and
tenderness that is not usual for you.
During a diagnostic ultrasound exam, your technologist will place a warm, water-based gel directly on
your skin and then use a small transducer or probe to pass over the area. The transducer transmits high-
frequency sound waves through the gel into the body. The transducer collects the sounds that bounce
back and a computer then uses those sound waves to create an image.
What to expect
- You will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and to change into a gown.
- Your breast area will need to be visible for the exam. This allows our technologist to move the transducer around the entire breast and surrounding tissue, including the axilla (armpit) to provide the radiologist with a complete set of images.
- The radiologist will review the images and compare them to previous ultrasounds or mammograms.
The radiologist will provide a complete report to your practitioner, usually within 24 hours.