Doctor pointing to breast ultrasound on monitor

Breast Ultrasound

Most breast lumps are benign cysts, clumps of normal glandular tissue, or benign breast lumps such as fibroadenomas. But even when it comes to potentially life-threatening conditions such as breast cancer or breast lesions, the first step towards diagnosis and treatment is a breast ultrasound.

At Providence, our highly trained sonographers and ultrasound technicians provide patients comfortable, careful and precise diagnostic screenings.

A breast ultrasound uses inaudible sound waves to create an image of the breast on screen. Doctors use the image to detect, diagnose, or treat any abnormalities within the breasts, such as lumps, cysts and tumors.

Based on the ultrasound results, your physician can tell whether a lump is a benign fluid-filled cyst or a solid tumor, which may be malignant.

Breast ultrasounds make use of an additional form of technology to detect blood clots within the breast. A transducer (the object that emits the sound waves) can use audible soundwaves with a Doppler probe. The degree of loudness of the audible sound waves produce indicates whether blood is flowing properly.

Related procedures that may be performed to evaluate breast problems include mammogram, MRI and breast biopsy. More recent ultrasound technologies, including three-dimensional (3D) and four-dimensional (4D) ultrasound, tissue harmonic imaging, ultrasound contrast agents, and ultrasound elastography, also show promise for diagnosing cancerous breast lesions in a noninvasive manner.

During your breast ultrasound, your doctor will ask you to wear a hospital gown and lie on an exam table. Because a sonogram uses soundwaves to create images, a gel is gently rubbed on your breast skin to eliminate any air particles that may interfere with the results of the sonogram.

Once the gel has been applied, the transducer circles the breast. When the transducer is placed at certain angles, the ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and breast tissues. The sound waves bounce off the tissues and return to the transducer. The transducer picks up the reflected waves, which are then converted into an electronic picture of the breasts.

The complete breast ultrasound takes about 10 to 20 minutes and is pain free.

The breast ultrasound is risk-free because it is noninvasive and doesn’t require radiation to image your breasts. Ultrasound may be safely used during pregnancy or in the presence of allergies to contrast dye, because no radiation or contrast dyes are used.

The only possible complication involves pre-existing conditions that could potentially alter your ultrasound results. Certain health conditions, such as intestinal gas and severe obesity, can affect the way the sonogram machine interprets the sound waves it produces. Be sure to consult your doctor if you suffer from conditions that can affect your screening.

Despite the screening being risk-free, receiving the results of an ultrasound can often cause anxiety and fear. It’s important to note that 80 percent of lumps are benign and not cancerous.

Throughout our system, many of our hospitals have been designated as Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. This designation assures that we meet the standards for radiation safety and image quality. By awarding facilities the status of a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, the ACR recognizes breast imaging centers that have earned accreditation in mammography, stereotactic breast biopsy and breast ultrasound (including ultrasound-guided breast biopsy).