DEFINITION: A breast ultrasound exam is usually done as a follow-up to a mammogram or clinical exam that reveals an area of concern and needs to be imaged in further detail. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves instead of X-rays, so your breast is not exposed to radiation. Ultrasound is safe for women who are pregnant or who have breast implants, and can be used for clear imaging of dense breast tissue.

WHAT TO EXPECT: For your breast ultrasound, you will be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up and to wear a gown that is open in the front. You will lie on your back on an exam table and the ultrasound technologist will use pillows to help you into a comfortable and proper position for the exam. The room will be dimly lit so that the technologist can clearly see images of your breast on the monitor. You may be asked to raise either arm above your head as you would during a clinical breast exam. Clear gel will be applied to your skin and will assist the technologist in gliding the transducer smoothly over your skin. While pressing firmly, the technologist will guide the transducer back and forth over the areas of concern and watch the images created on the monitor. Once the proper images have been acquired, the gel will be wiped off and the exam will be complete. The exam is virtually painless and may take 10 to 30 minutes to complete, depending on how many views are necessary. You may be asked to wait while the radiologist looks at your ultrasound to make sure that no additional images are necessary.

HOW TO PREPARE: No specific preparation is necessary for breast ultrasound. We ask that you please bring copies of your mammogram images with you from previous exams at other facilities. We commonly ask women if they are pregnant as a standard of care.

RESULTS: Our specially trained radiologists will review your ultrasound images. The radiologist prepares a diagnostic report to share with your referring physician or primary care doctor, and determines what additional diagnostic steps may need to be taken. Your doctor will receive the written report in 24-48 hours and talk with you about the results. You will also receive a letter from the breast center explaining your results within seven days.