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Breast Ultrasound

What is ultrasound?
Ultrasound is like ordinary sound except it has a frequency (or pitch) higher than human beings can hear. When sent into the body from a transducer (scanner) resting on the patient’s skin, the sound is reflected off internal structures. The returning echoes are received by the transducer and converted by an electronic instrument into an image of the internal structures on a viewing screen. Diagnostic ultrasound is commonly called sonography or ultrasonography.

Is ultrasound safe?
There are no known harmful effects associated with the medical use of sonography. Studies in humans have revealed no direct link between the use of diagnostic ultrasound and any adverse outcome. Although the possibility exists that biological effects may be identified in the future, current information indicates that the benefits to patients far outweigh the risks, if any.

Why do I need a breast ultrasound?
Information obtained from a breast physical examination alone may be incomplete. Breast ultrasonography, when used in conjunction with a physical exam and/or mammography, can identify cysts, tumors, abscessed, lymph nodes, and very dense breast tissue. In some cases, a tissue sample (biopsy) of a suspicious area is required to make a specific diagnosis. If this is needed, ultrasonography can be used to guide the needle biopsy without the need for surgery. Aspiration of breast cysts is commonly performed using ultrasound guidance.

How is breast ultrasonography performed?
You will be asked to remove all garments above your waist. A paper or cloth or gown will be given to you to cover yourself. You will be instructed to lie or sit on an examining table. A gel will be placed on your skin and a transducer (scanner) will be moved over the area to be examined. The examiner may feel the area for any lumps while performing the examination. No pain is involved in this type of examination. The images obtained are seen on a monitor or stored on film or videotape.

Who will do the exam?
The examination is usually performed by a sonographer or by a doctor trained in ultrasonography. The images obtained from the exam will be interpreted by a radiologist.

What are the limitations of the examination?
Results of the examination may vary depending on the type of breast tissue you have. In any case, if a suspicious area noted on mammography cannot be seen with ultrasound, it should be evaluated by other means.

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