Breast ultrasound is an imaging tool which produces high-frequency sound waves that pass through the breast tissue. A small hand-held unit called a transducer scans over the breast during the exam. A computer then converts the sound waves into images. The images are captured in real-time and can show all areas of the breast, including the area closest to the chest wall, which is hard to study with a mammogram. Breast ultrasound does not use s-rays or other potentially harmful types of radiation.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR SCREENING BREAST ULTRASOUND?
Screening breast ultrasound exams are primarily performed on women who fall into the high risk category:
- Asymptomatic women without implants that have a risk of developing breast cancer which is higher than 25%
- Women with breast that have at least 25% dense breast tissue
- Women who have more than one year following the diagnoses of breast cancer without known metastasis.
BENEFITS OF SCREENING BREAST ULTRASOUND EXAMS
The greatest weakness of mammography is the difficulty in finding cancer in women with dense breast tissue. Ultrasound is apparently not hindered by dense tissue. Combining breast ultrasound with mammography significantly improves the ability to find more cancers in high risk women with dense tissue than the use of mammography alone. Finally, the cancers detected by ultrasound are predominantly small and invasive.
Ultrasound my be offered as a screening tool for women who:
- Are at high risk for breast cancer and unable to tolerate an MRI examination
- Are at intermediate risk for breast cancer based on family history, personal history of breast cancer, or a prior biopsy showing an abnormal result
- Have dense breast
- Have silicone breast implants and very little tissue can be included on the mammogram
- Are pregnant or should not to be exposed to x-rays (which are necessary for a mammogram)