Breast ultrasound is done using a handheld unit called a transducer that is gently passed back and forth over the breast with slight pressure, while a computer turns the sound waves into an image of the tissues inside the breast. This resulting image is called a sonogram or ultrasound scan. Breast Ultrasound video
Breast ultrasound is considered diagnostic if there is an area of concern identified on a mammogram, breast exam or MRI. The ultrasound is an additional tool physicians and sonographers use to determine if that area is cystic (filled with fluid) or solid. An ultrasound does not replace the need for a mammogram, but it is often used to add important information.
Breast ultrasound is considered screening if the patient and her physician have found no areas of concern. A patient may request a screening ultrasound if her breast tissue is dense (per mammogram report results). New York State passed the Breast Density Inform Act in January 2013 requiring radiologists to inform patients of their breast density with their mammogram results.
Breast density is determined by the radiologist who reads your mammogram. Your report from our office will include your breast density type:
- Almost entirely fatty
- Scattered areas of fibroglandular density
- Heterogeneously dense
- Extremely dense
The new law requires patients with Heterogeneously dense and Extremely dense tissue to be informed as they may be candidates for additional screening tools such as ultrasound or MRI. The denser the tissue, the more difficult it can be for a radiologist to interpret.
If we find you have a dense pattern (Heterogeneously dense OR Extremely dense), your result letter will recommend that you talk to your referring health care provider about your breast cancer risk and discuss whether you may benefit from additional testing. If you and your primary care physician wish to have a screening ultrasound because your breast tissue is dense, EWBC can provide that service at our Brighton, Greece or Victor facility. Patients may be responsible for payment, depending on insurance coverage.
Why can’t I have an ultrasound of my breasts INSTEAD of a mammogram?
The mammogram remains the gold standard for detection of abnormalities in the breast and ultrasound further characterizes the tissue. Ultrasound is unable to detect the earliest forms of breast cancer, particularly microcalcifications which are seen on a mammogram. Ultrasound compliments the mammogram and may provide additional information but is not a substitute for a mammogram.
To schedule a screening breast ultrasound
If your last mammogram at our facility identified your tissue type as dense, we offer screening ultrasound appointments at all of our facilities. If you would like a screening ultrasound, please call 585-442-2190. Please be aware some insurances do not cover screening ultrasounds or may apply the fee to your deductible plan.
Additional Information about breast density:
American College of Radiology Breast Density brochure
American Cancer Society Breast Density fact sheet
Breast Density:Are You Informed? By: Wendie A. Berg, M.D., Ph.D., FACR and JoAnn Pushkin