Understanding Breast Ultrasound Imaging

Dive deep into the intricacies of Breast Ultrasound Imaging with guidance from Dr. Stacy Smith-Foley, Medical Advisor, Learn Look Locate. This comprehensive guide sheds light on how ultrasound plays a crucial role in the early detection and ongoing monitoring of breast health. 

What Every Patient Should Know About Breast Ultrasound Imaging

Breast Ultrasound Imaging is a pivotal tool in breast cancer detection and management. This non-invasive, radiation-free technique is crucial for diagnosing and monitoring various breast conditions, ensuring safety even for individuals with breast implants. For patients seeking clarity and insight, this guide explains how ultrasound technology works, why it’s crucial, and what results mean for your health journey.

What is Ultrasound Imaging of the Breast?

Breast ultrasound is a sophisticated imaging technique that uses sound waves to create detailed images of the internal structures of the breast. This method is safe, non-invasive, and radiation-free, making it an excellent option for all women, including those with breast implants. Ultrasound is particularly adept at providing a closer look at areas of interest identified during a physical exam or mammography.


How does Ultrasound imaging work ?

Ultrasound imaging, or sonography, operates much like echolocation. The machine consists of a base unit containing a powerful computer with a monitor and a variety of transducers (probes). It sends out high-frequency sound waves that bounce off tissues within the breast. These echoes are captured and transformed into visual images by the ultrasound machine. This technology allows for real-time imaging, offering immediate insights into the breast’s internal structures.

Why is the technologist taking so many pictures?

Each image captured by the technologist plays a crucial role in diagnosing and understanding breast health. Through advanced imaging techniques like Doppler ultrasound and Elastography, the technologist assesses blood flow and the stiffness of any detected masses. These characteristics help in differentiating between benign and potentially cancerous masses. The comprehensive imaging captures various aspects of a mass, aiding the radiologist in making an accurate assessment.

What is the radiologist looking for on Ultrasound?

The primary goal of breast ultrasound is to distinguish between cysts (fluid-filled) and solid masses. The radiologist evaluates several factors, including the mass’s shape, margins, internal consistency, and associated blood flow. These observations are crucial in determining the mass’s nature—benign or suspicious. The findings are categorized into BIRADS categories, guiding the subsequent clinical steps and recommendations.

What are some common uses of breast ultrasound ?

Ultrasounds are versatile and can be used for various reasons:

  • Evaluating Symptoms: If you feel a lump or experience breast pain, an ultrasound can help identify the cause.
  • Investigating Nipple Discharge: Certain types of discharge can be worrisome. Ultrasound can check for masses in your milk ducts.
  • Further Examination: If your mammogram or MRI picks up something unclear, an ultrasound can take a closer look.
  • Guiding Biopsies: If a suspicious area needs a closer examination, ultrasound can help precisely guide a needle biopsy.

Additionally, ultrasound is instrumental in supplemental screening, offering an additional layer of detection alongside traditional mammography.

What is Supplemental Screening with Ultrasound?

Supplemental screening with ultrasound is increasingly recognized as a valuable tool for women with dense breast tissue, where mammograms may not provide complete clarity. This approach involves a whole breast ultrasound, using either ABUS (Automated Breast Ultrasound) or handheld devices to scan the entire breast. This method can uncover cancers that mammograms might miss, providing an essential safety net for those at increased risk due to dense breast tissue.

How should I prepare for this test?

Preparing for a breast ultrasound is straightforward. Comfortable clothing and minimal jewelry are recommended for ease during the procedure. The process involves lying on an exam table, sometimes with slight adjustments to position, to ensure the clearest possible images. This non-invasive, pain-free procedure requires no special preparation, making it an accessible option for all patients.

Who Interprets the Results of the Ultrasound, and How Do I Get Them?

A radiologist, a doctor trained to supervise and interpret radiology exams, will analyze the images. The radiologist will send a signed report to the doctor who requested the exam. Your doctor will then share the results with you. In some cases, the radiologist may discuss results with you after the exam.

You may need a follow-up exam. If so, your doctor will explain why. Sometimes a follow-up exam further evaluates a potential issue with more views or a special imaging technique. It may also see if there has been any change. Follow-up exams are often the best way to see if treatment is working or if a problem needs attention.

Expert Insights on Breast Ultrasound's Impact

A Conversation with Dr. Stacy Smith-Foley

Discover the significance of breast ultrasound imaging in cancer detection through an enlightening conversation with Dr. Stacy Smith-Foley. Delving into the advancements in ultrasound technology, including Automated Breast Ultrasound (ABUS) and its role in identifying abnormalities, this interview offers a deep dive into how ultrasound complements mammography, especially for women with dense breast tissue. Gain expert insights on navigating your breast health journey, understanding mammogram reports, and the crucial aspects of breast ultrasound from a leading radiologist’s perspective.

“Learn, Look, Locate is a fabulous one stop resource for all things breast health.”