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Breast ultrasound: everything you need to know about the procedure
Breast ultrasound: everything you need to know about the procedure

Ultrasound is a procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of various structures in the body. There is no ionizing radiation. The procedure shows the structure of organs, blood flow in the vessels. This method helps to diagnose and monitor treatment.

Ultrasound of the mammary glands is performed to assess their structure. A variation of this procedure is Doppler sonography. During breast examinations, the doctor may use this machine to measure blood flow in the growths.

When to do an ultrasound of the mammary glands

The main purpose of this diagnostic method is to assess pathological changes, to establish the cause of the pathology. For example, when mammography / MRI detects abnormalities, an ultrasound is needed to accurately diagnose.

The study allows you to assess the structure of the identified pathological focus: liquid (benign cyst filled with fluid), dense (malignant tumor or benign node), mixed (cystic fibrous). It is also possible to find out additional characteristics of the neoplasm.

Breast ultrasound or mammography to detect cancer

These two methods are the main ones in diagnostics with suspected oncological diseases. But a mammogram does not always show pathological changes, in addition, their decoding can be quite controversial.

Mammography is difficult with a dense gland, with many ducts and fibrous tissue. Therefore, in addition to it, ultrasound is used.

MRI is also used for this purpose. If it is performed for screening purposes, then a similar ultrasound is not required, but it can be used to assess the characteristics of pathology and biopsy. Screening with ultrasound will show much more than a mammogram and an MRI.

Invitro ultrasound for breast examination is recommended for women at risk of breast cancer. It is also carried out in the presence of contraindications to x-rays.

Ultrasound-guided biopsy

If neoplasms are found, the doctor may prescribe a similar type of analysis. An ultrasound machine provides real-time imaging and is therefore often used during biopsy. Before the procedure, you need to undergo an additional ultrasound scan to draw up a plan and choose the best option.

Preparation for ultrasound and the course of the breast procedure

The woman lies down on the couch, throws her hands behind her head. The doctor treats the skin with a special gel. It is necessary for better contact of the sensor with the skin and sliding. This transducer is then pressed firmly at various points on the chest. Sound waves penetrate at different angles, so that you can see the organs well. For Doppler ultrasound, the same sensor is used. The procedure can take up to 30 minutes.

As a rule, the study is easy, painless and fast, no special preparation is required. If a painful area is affected, quite unpleasant sensations may occur. When using Doppler ultrasound, pulsating sounds are heard. Their height changes when tracking blood flow in different parts of the body. The doctor during the study may ask the patient to change the posture.

Where can you get an ultrasound of the mammary glands?

Similar devices are available in all city and district polyclinics, as well as hospitals. You can also visit a private office or clinic. The cost of the survey in those will be more expensive, but it is usually carried out much faster.

Deciphering the results: norms and pathologies for ultrasound of the mammary glands

The ultrasound diagnostics doctor analyzes the images. After studying, he draws up a conclusion, signs it and sends it to the attending physician or gives it to the patient.

In some cases, additional research is required. The reason for this will be explained by the attending physician. Basically, such a need arises when obtaining dubious results, which can only be explained through repeated examinations. Several other research methods may also be selected.

It may be necessary to follow-up to identify deviations that occur over time. Repeated studies can be used to monitor the effectiveness of treatment or to monitor tissue stabilization over time.

During the survey, attention is paid to the following indicators:

  • The volume of adipose tissue;
  • Characterization of ferrous compounds;
  • The condition of the milky ducts;
  • The density of the walls of the ducts.

Deciphering in vitro ultrasound shows the presence or absence of pathology, for example, the norm for the thickness of the glandular tissue should not exceed 14 mm, and for women after 40 years - 20 mm. The milky ducts should be clearly visible, without local expansion and deformation.

The ultrasound method allows you to detect leaf-shaped tumors, common and cystic-diffuse mastopathy, cysts.

Leaf-like tumors

These neoplasms are characterized by a heterogeneous structure, similar to a head of cabbage, their cavity has many cracks, clear contours.

In this case, the device records lateral shadows and signal amplification. The presence of nodular internal formations, arterial and venous vessels of different sizes allows the final confirmation of the deviation from the norm.


Diffuse mastopathy is characterized by a homogeneous structure, slight enhancement, smooth contours, located close to the alveolar segment, and reaches 1 cm in diameter. Purulent mastitis is accompanied by the expansion of the alveoli and ducts, the appearance of an infiltration zone.

Mastitis with abscess - a cavity with uneven edges is visualized, surrounded by an infiltration zone, bridges.


Neoplasms of this kind are visualized with clear contours, smooth walls, filled with fluid. The device captures acoustic side shadows. If the cyst is relatively soft, it will shrink when the doctor presses the probe on the area.

If during the procedure, heterogeneities, parietal growths are found, then puncture and cytological analysis are shown.

What does ultrasound show, the benefits of such an examination of the mammary glands

An ultrasound examination is non-invasive (no injections) and generally painless. It is a simple, widely available survey method when compared to other imaging techniques. At the same time, there is no ionizing radiation, which cannot be said about radiography.

Scanning allows you to get clear images of soft tissues, while X-rays do not provide this opportunity. The image is received in real time, so the device is almost always used during aspiration and puncture biopsy. Ultrasound allows you to detect pathologies even in very dense glands.

When ultrasound alone is not enough

  • The device allows you to visualize breast tissue, but is not a substitute for annual mammography, as well as regular preventive examinations;
  • Breast cancer is not always visible with ultrasound;
  • To determine the nature of the identified pathological foci and changes, a biopsy may be prescribed;
  • Many neoplasms detected during examination are not malignant;
  • It should be noted that ultrasound does not detect calcifications, only mammography can do this. In addition, many types of cancer at the initial stage appear precisely under the guise of areas of calcification;
  • High-quality ultrasound can be done not in all medical institutions;
  • When choosing an institution, it is important to take into account the qualifications of a diagnostician.

In addition, this method and mammography perfectly complement each other when difficulties arise in decoding the results. This type of examination will allow you to calm down a woman who has a neoplasm, since quite often such pathologies turn out to be either benign cysts or adipose tissue.

Ultrasound examination of the glands is mandatory and is performed every 2 years up to 35 years old, older women need to do it every six months. Timely diagnosis allows for more effective treatment. The prognosis in such a situation is usually favorable.

Therefore, there is no need to delay and be sure to consult a doctor in case of discomfort and other alarming symptoms, and you should not skip preventive examinations.

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