Mammography can reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by 20% to 40% because it’s able to catch breast cancer during its earlier stages.
But sometimes you need more information to determine whether a lump in your breast that’s been detected by a mammogram is really a cancerous lump or a benign (non-cancerous) abnormality. This is where breast ultrasound comes in.
What is a breast ultrasound?
A breast ultrasound is a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to take images of the inside of your breast. The sound waves painlessly bounce off the surfaces in your body and the echoes of these sound waves are transformed into a video or picture.
The procedure is often used to assess whether a lump in the breast is a potentially tumorous growth, a fluid-filled cyst, or some other abnormality. In both cases, the test is also used to determine the size and shape of the lump.
The test allows your doctor to pinpoint the exact location of the lump in your breast. This acts as a guide for the needle insertion process during a breast biopsy, which is used to get a sample from the lump.
Breast ultrasounds are recommended alongside mammography for women with dense breasts. This is because it can be difficult to identify potential lumps in dense breasts using mammography alone. When used together, the procedures may be able to identify more potentially cancerous lumps.
Other reasons why this type of examination may be used include the following:
- To assess nipple discharge
- To evaluate breast pain or swelling
- To evaluate breast redness
- To monitor benign breast lumps
- To assess discoloration in the breast and other skin changes
- To get a better evaluation after other imaging tests