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 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 characterize the breast tissue. Ultrasound is also able to determine if a mass 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.
This page is intended as an educational resource only. It is not a substitute for professional care. Please see your physician if you have any concerns about your own health.