A breast ultrasound is a safe, painless and noninvasive medical test. It helps doctors diagnose and treat medical conditions of the breast.
Ultrasound can be used as a screening tool for women who:
During your test, the sonographer — the person doing the ultrasounds — will position you on an examination table.
After you are positioned on the table, the radiologist or sonographer will apply a warm water-based gel to the breast. The gel helps make secure contact with the body. It also gets rid of air pockets between the probe and the skin that can block the sound waves from passing into your body.
The sonographer will then run a probe, called a tranducer, back and forth over the area of interest. This makes images of the inside of the breast.
Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound technique that evaluates blood flow through a blood vessel. During a breast ultrasound, the sonographer may use Doppler to check the blood flow in any breast mass. Sometimes this gives your doctor more information about the cause of the mass.
Patients usually don’t feel any discomfort during the test. However, if the sonographer scans an area of tenderness, you may feel pressure or minor pain from the probe.
Once the imaging is complete, the clear ultrasound gel will be wiped off your skin. The ultrasound gel does not stain or discolor clothing.
A radiologist is a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations. Your radiologist will analyze the images and send a signed report to the doctor or other health care provider who ordered the test. Your provider (not the sonographer or radiologist) will share the results with you.
If you need a follow-up examination, your doctor will explain why.
Like most medical tests, ultrasounds carry benefits and risks. You can read about the general benefits and risks on the ultrasound page. This list covers the benefits and risks related just to breast ultrasounds.