Ultrasound (US) is a safe and widely-used diagnostic method that has become the go-to alternative for mammography in young women. Additionally, ultrasound may be recommended as a complementary measure after mammography for older women who experience palpable lumps.

Breast ultrasound has superior sensitivity and accuracy than mammography for early cancer detection, especially when done properly. Unfortunately, it cannot serve as a stand-in screening method due to high false positive rates, biopsy rates and follow-up exams required after biopsy is taken.

What Is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of your body. It’s safer and more accessible than x-rays or other tests, since there’s no radiation involved.

It works by sending pulses of sound waves from a probe (a small device) against your skin and recording any echoes it creates. The computer then transforms these images into images that can be seen on a monitor.

Ultrasound machines emit a range of frequencies, with lower ones penetrating deeper into your body and higher ones producing clearer images. When an ultrasound passes through you body until it reaches its intended destination – such as breast tissue or fluid-filled cysts – it sends out images in high resolution.

Ultrasound waves travel through the body and produce an image on a video monitor of your internal structures and organs. These can include blood flowing in veins or arteries, as well as organ linings like bladder or kidney.

Ultrasound exams are typically performed by a sonographer, who are highly-trained specialists in this type of examination. They will provide an initial interpretation to a radiologist who then reviews the findings.

Most scans are non-invasive, requiring only a tiny probe to be placed on your body surface. However, some scans require inserting a probe into an organ such as the vagina for an obstetric scan or rectum for prostate scanning.

Ultrasound imaging is most often used to visualize a developing fetus, but it can also be employed to examine abdominal and pelvic organs, muscles and tendons, as well as heart and blood vessels. Ultrasound can measure fetal size and development as well as detect certain abnormalities such as disproportionate limbs.

Ultrasound has another distinct advantage over x-rays in that it can be performed while the patient is moving or in various positions, unlike x-rays which must be taken while stationary. This makes ultrasound ideal for diagnosing conditions like frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome and other similar disorders where movement restriction or pain may exist.

What Are the Results of an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound has an incredibly high sensitivity for cancer detection, particularly when compared with mammograms. Researchers from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and University of Washington found that ultrasound had a sensitivity rate of 95.7 percent, compared to just 60.9 percent for mammograms.

Ultrasound can not only assess breast lumps, but it can also detect problems elsewhere in the body. A color Doppler ultrasound can observe blood flow through various arteries and veins of your body. Likewise, musculoskeletal ultrasound examines muscles and bones for any issues that could be causing pain or other symptoms.

Ultrasound imaging during pregnancy can be used to estimate your due date, confirm twins or other multiple pregnancies, rule out ectopic pregnancies and estimate the size of your baby just before delivery. It may also detect certain birth defects like spina bifida.

Ultrasound exams are conducted by a sonographer or radiologist, who uses a transducer to send and receive sound waves. As these bounce off different parts of your body, they are recorded as echoes within the machine and displayed onscreen for your viewing pleasure.

Ultrasound scanning typically takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the part of your body being scanned. It’s safe and usually leaves you awake and alert throughout the process.

If you have any queries regarding the results of your ultrasound, your doctor is best equipped to answer them. In some instances, a second scan may be recommended in order to obtain more detail.

Before your exam, please adhere to any preparation instructions your doctor, imaging practice or hospital provides you. This could include abstaining from food and liquids for a specified amount of time as well as emptying your bladder prior to the procedure.

When having an ultrasound examination, it’s best to wear loose clothing and remove any jewelry on your skin. Any previous radiology tests such as X-rays or CT scans can also be brought along so they can be compared with the ultrasound results.

What Can I Do About the Results of an Ultrasound?

Women under 40 may benefit from having a breast ultrasound as it’s considered a safer alternative to mammography and can help your doctor detect and address any underlying conditions that could lead to cancer. This non-invasive test helps ensure you get the best care possible, saving time on exams!

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of organs and structures inside your body. These waves bounce off the surface of your skin and are picked up by a device known as a transducer, which then processes the information for real-time visualization on a monitor.

Ultrasound exams are typically non-painful and simple to perform. Your technologist will apply a gel on the area being examined, which helps maximize contact between the transducer and your skin for improved results during your examination.

Your technologist will then gently move the transducer over the body part that needs to be viewed. You may feel a slight amount of pressure, but this is perfectly normal.

Your doctor may ask that you lie on a bed or stretcher with the ultrasound machine next to you. Before beginning the test, your doctor may request that you change into a gown for protection.

Once you are comfortable, the technologist will apply gel onto your skin in order for the transducer to pick up sound waves. They then move the wand over various body parts such as your abdomen or other part being examined, focusing on one area for examination.

In most cases, exams take 30 minutes to an hour to complete depending on the type of assessment being administered.

Ultrasound results are typically sent to your doctor, who will review them and identify any anomalies. Your physician will then discuss these findings with you directly.

What Can I Do About the Results of a Mammogram?

Mammograms are an invaluable tool in the screening for breast cancer and they also assist in recognizing and monitoring benign (noncancerous) conditions that may develop in the breast. Unfortunately, some abnormalities on a mammogram may be confusing or frightening if you’ve never had one before.

If a mammogram shows an area that appears suspicious, you should get tested immediately and visit your doctor to get further tested. Your physician may also order an ultrasound of the suspected growth to see if it’s getting larger over time.

Your doctor can then decide if you need to have a biopsy, which is a small sample of tissue taken from the abnormal area to examine and rule out cancerous growths. Usually, the radiologist can tell you whether an anomaly found on your mammogram is likely to be cancerous or not.

Women with a history of breast cancer may notice an unusual finding on their mammogram and will need further testing, such as CT scan or MRI. While this type of screening can help detect cancer early, you should discuss the potential risks with your doctor prior to scheduling any type of testing.

Mammograms are performed by compressing the breast tissue between two plates and producing an X-ray image of each breast. While this process may feel uncomfortable at times, rest assured that pressure from the plates only lasts a few seconds and should not cause any pain.

If you are concerned about pain before your mammogram exam, be sure to let the technologist know so they can work with you to minimize it. For added comfort, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen an hour prior to taking the image to help relieve discomfort.

Your doctor will determine how often you should have mammograms based on your age, risk level and other factors. If you feel that the schedule your doctor suggests is inappropriate for you, express your concerns, seek a second opinion or search out a new physician.