This test is a very common imaging test which produces images of breast on a viewing screen by sending high frequency sound waves – these waves are passed through the breast for the image on the viewing screen. There is no radiation involved in this test in which a sound emitting probe is placed on the breast to conduct the ultrasound of the breast. This test cannot be used in isolation for cancer screening. It is used in combination with other imaging tests. It is primarily aimed at identifying an abnormality seen in a mammogram. A mammogram may identify lump or a cyst but an ultrasound is able to distinguish if the lump is solid – benign fibroadenoma or cancerous growth or is filled with fluid – benign cyst. Ultrasound is not able to detect or evaluate if a lump is cancerous or benign also it cannot detect calcifications.
In younger women ultrasound is generally recommended before a mammogram for evaluation of breast lumps which can be felt physically. In young women because of denser breast tissue and milk glands, a mammogram is not easy to comprehend. Thus ultrasounds are more helpful. Such dense tissue though normal in nature looks like cancerous growth in a mammogram.
Ultrasound is also used in guided biopsy in which with the help of ultrasound a biopsy needle is guided to the suspicious areas in the breast for tissue removal.