Breast Ultrasound and How It Is Used To Fight Against Breast Cancer

Along with medical ultrasound awareness month, October celebrates breast cancer awareness month to bring to light the importance of women’s health, research, and advancements in the field to cure and detect breast cancer.

Did you know that along with a mammogram, breast ultrasound is used to produce pictures of the internal structures of the breast? Ultrasound is primarily used to help diagnose breast lumps or other abnormalities that may have been found during a physical exam, mammogram, or breast MRI. It also lets your healthcare provider see how well blood is flowing to areas in your breasts. This test is often used when a change has been seen on a mammogram or when a change is felt but does not show up on a mammogram. Ultrasound is a safe and painless alternative for those who cannot be exposed to radiation.

Common Uses of Breast Ultrasound:

Determining the Nature of a Breast Abnormality

Drawing of the anatomy of the female breast

The primary use of breast ultrasound is to help diagnose breast abnormalities, such as a lump, and to characterize potential abnormalities were seen in a mammogram or breast MRI. Ultrasound imaging can help to determine if an abnormality is:

  • solid, which may be a non-cancerous lump of tissue or a cancerous tumor,
  • fluid-filled, such as a benign cyst,
  • or both cystic and solid.

In addition, Doppler ultrasound is used to assess the blood supply in breast lesions which can help determine the cause of the mass.

Supplemental Breast Cancer Screening

Ultrasound Image getting accurate measurements of a tumor on the right breast of a female patient

Mammography is the only screening tool for breast cancer that is confirmed to reduce deaths caused by breast cancer through early detection. However, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. Some breast lesions and abnormalities are not visible or are difficult to interpret on mammograms. Breasts that are considered dense can make cancer harder to detect through typical breast exams. Many studies have shown that ultrasound and MRI can help supplement mammography by detecting breast cancers that may not be visible with mammography. Ultrasound can be offered as a screening tool for women who:

  • Are at high risk for breast cancer and unable to undergo an MRI examination,
  • are pregnant or should not be exposed to x-rays, which are necessary for a mammogram,
  • have increased breast density — when the breasts have a lot of glandular and connective tissue and not much fatty tissue.

Ultrasound-guided Breast Biopsy

When an ultrasound examination reveals a suspicious breast abnormality, an ultrasound-guided biopsy can become an option to learn more about the abnormality. An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy uses sound waves to help locate a lump or abnormality and remove a small tissue sample for examination under a microscope. With the help of ultrasound, this method of biopsy is less invasive than surgical biopsy, leaves little to no scarring, and does not involve exposure to ionizing radiation which can be harmful to some patients.

As ultrasound technology continues to evolve, it is quickly becoming a safe, radiation-free alternative to help detect and diagnose life-threatening diseases, like breast cancer. Sonography is a broad profession containing many sub-disciplines, such as musculoskeletal sonography, breast sonography, echocardiography (adult & pediatric), vascular, neurosonology, abdominal, obstetrics & gynecology, and more.

Check Yourself!

Early detection of breast cancer is critical to raise your rate of survival. Many breast cancer symptoms are not noticeable without a professional screening through your healthcare provider, but some symptoms can be caught early just by being proactive about your breast health. Along with a clinical exam, mammogram, and ultrasound a self-examination is encouraged at least once a month for Adult women and adults assigned female at birth. Johns Hopkins Medical center states,

“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”

Self-exams can be performed in the shower, in front of a mirror, and while lying down in bed. If you find a lump during your self-exam, schedule an appointment with your doctor, but don’t panic — 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous! But you can always contact your doctor or health provider for more information and to ease your mind.

For more information on how to perform self-breast exams on the National Breast Cancer website:


Are you surprised ultrasound has so many use cases? Are you interested in pursuing a career in sonography? WCUI is now enrolling for: Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Cardiovascular Sonography, Academic Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, and Academic Associate of Science in Cardiovascular Sonography programs. Give us a call at (888)315-4993 or email andconnect with us today to learn more!


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