Demystifying Breast Ultrasound
Ultrasound is a noninvasive breast imaging tool. It is commonly used to supplement your mammogram—providing additional information so you and your doctor can make more informed decisions about your breast health.
Typically, ultrasound is the recommended next step in the breast health journey when a suspicious area is found during a physical or mammogram. It is also routinely recommended for women with dense breast tissue as part of their annual breast cancer screening routine.
What is ultrasound and why do I need one?
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves emitted through probes covered in a clear gel that are pressed against your skin by a technician. These sound waves are converted into a live image on the screen through echoes. A breast ultrasound is no different than the ultrasound you may receive during a pregnancy or injury—this time, it’s just focused on your breast.
When ultrasound is paired with other technologies, like Hologic’s ShearWave™ PLUS Elastography, it can provide additional information about your breast tissue, like its stiffness, which could help your doctor detect cancers early. This technology has been shown to reduce benign breast biopsies and false negatives—potentially saving you from having an unnecessary biopsy.1
Additionally, ultrasound is an especially helpful tool for women with dense breasts, which can make it difficult to see cancers on a mammogram. Nearly half of all women 40 years and older who get mammograms have dense breasts.2
How do I prepare for a breast ultrasound?
First, take a deep breath. This type of imaging is painless, takes about a half hour, and requires no recovery time.
Leading up to your appointment, you can eat and drink normally. Avoid lotions, powders, or body sprays in the area around your breasts—including your underarms, so no deodorant. These items can impact the quality of your ultrasound image.
Consider wearing clothes that can be easily removed, since you will likely need to change into a hospital gown.
How is ultrasound different than a mammogram?
Ultrasound is typically used in addition to a mammogram and does not replace annual screening.
These two technologies provide different views of breast tissue. Mammograms use X-rays to show hard tissues or structures within the breast, such as masses. Ultrasound uses sound waves to give a real-time, clear picture of soft tissues that often do not show up well on X-ray images. This means that mammograms can detect masses, while ultrasound can verify whether a mass is solid or liquid filled, which helps your doctor make a diagnosis.
Now you know! Breast ultrasound is a commonly used imaging tool that is quick, painless, and proven to provide helpful information to supplement your annual mammogram.
Disclaimers: The content in this piece is for information purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice. Please contact your medical professional for specific advice regarding your health and treatment. This information may be relevant in the U.S. and other markets and is not intended as a product solicitation or promotion where such activities are prohibited. Because Hologic materials are distributed through websites, eBroadcasts and tradeshows, it is not always possible to control where such materials appear. For specific information on what products may be available in a particular country, please write to email@example.com.
The Genius® 3D Mammography™ exam (a.k.a. Genius® exam) is acquired on the Hologic® 3D Mammography™ system and consists of a 2D and 3D™ image set, where the 2D image can be either an acquired 2D image or a 2D image generated from the 3D™ image set. The Genius® exam is only available on the Hologic® 3D Mammography™ system. Please consult your physician for a complete list of benefits and risks associated with mammography. Hologic, 3D, 3D Mammography, Genius, ShearWave SWE, The Science of Sure, and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Hologic, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries in the United States and/or other countries. Hologic is an exclusive distributor and licensee of the SuperSonic product and trademark.
1 Berg WA et Radiology 2012 Feb;262(2):435-49.
2 “Dense Breasts: Answers to Commonly Asked Questions.” 13 April 2022, National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/breast-changes/dense-breasts