Breast ultrasound

  • Definition
    • Breast ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to examine the breasts.

  • Alternative Names
    • Ultrasonography of the breast; Sonogram of the breast

  • How the Test is Performed
    • You will be asked to undress from the waist up. You will be given a gown to wear.

      During the test, you will lie on your back on an examining table.

      Your health care provider will place a gel on the skin of your breast. A hand-held device, called a transducer, is moved over the breast area. You may be asked to raise your arms above your head and turn to the left or right.

      The device sends sound waves to the breast tissue. The sound waves help create a picture that can be seen on a computer screen on the ultrasound machine.

      The number of people involved in the test will be limited to protect your privacy.

  • How to Prepare for the Test
    • You may want to wear a two-piece outfit, so you do not have to completely undress.

      On the day of your test, DO NOT use any lotion or powder on your breasts. DO NOT use deodorant under your arms. Remove jewelry from your neck and chest area.

  • How the Test will Feel
    • This test usually does not cause any discomfort, although the gel may feel cool.

  • Why the Test is Performed
    • Breast ultrasound is usually ordered when more information is needed after other tests are done. These tests may include mammogram or breast MRI.

      Your provider may order this test if you have:

      A breast ultrasound can:

      • Help tell the difference between a solid mass or a cyst
      • Help look for a growth if you have clear or bloody fluid coming from your nipple
      • Guide a needle during a breast biopsy
  • Normal Results
    • A normal result means the breast tissue appears normal.

  • What Abnormal Results Mean
  • Risks
    • There are no risks associated with breast ultrasound. There is no radiation exposure.

  • References
    • Hacker NF, Friedland ML. Breast disease. In: Hacker NF, Gambone JC, Hobel CJ, eds. Hacker and Moore's Essentials of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 30.

      Harvey JA, Mahoney MC, Newell MS, et al. ACR appropriateness criteria palpable breast masses. J Am Coll Radiol. 2013;10:742-9.e1-3. PMID: 24091044

      Hooley RJ, Scoutt LM, Philpotts LE. Breast ultrasonography: state of the art. Radiology. 2013;268:642-59. PMID: 23970509

      Wolfe AC, Domchek SM, Davidson NE, Sacchini V, McCormick B. Cancer of the breast. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 91.