Breast lumps are very common in women and thebreast ultrasound scan is the easiest and fastest way to evaluate these lumps and reduce anxiety caused by not knowing. The breast scan uses sound waves to produce pictures of the internal structures of the breast. It is primarily used to help diagnose breast lumps or other abnormalities your doctor may have found during a physical exam, mammogram or breast MRI. Ultrasound scans are safe, non-invasive and do not use ionizing radiation.
Ultrasound is the best choice in determining if a lump is solid (which may be a non-cancerous lump or a cancerous tumour) or a fluid-filled sac such as a benign cyst.
Why would I need a breast ultrasound?
The breast ultrasound scan may be performed in the investigation of a number of problems including:
If you experience symptoms such as a breast lump, lumpiness, texture change, nipple discharge
A change in mammogram or MRI that needs further evaluation
Check-ups of previously diagnosed non-cancerous breast lumps
You experience breast pain
To see if breast lumps are cysts or solid
To check breast implants and surrounding breast tissue
If you are breastfeeding and experience breast symptoms
History of breast cancer
To find out how to do a self-breast exam visit this link.
What preparation is required?
No preparation is required for the breast ultrasound test.
What should I expect during the breast scan?
Before the breast ultrasound scan, the consultant sonographer will explain the examination procedure. You will be asked to lie on the examination couch and expose your breasts and you may be asked to raise your arm above your head. A small amount of ultrasound gel will be placed on your skin and a small ultrasound probe will be used to obtain images of the breast tissue. You might see red and blue colours on the screen but this is nothing to worry about and it is what is called colour Doppler ultrasound. Once the imaging is completed, the clear ultrasound gel will be wiped off your skin. The ultrasound gel does not stain or discolour clothing. During and after the breast ultrasound examination our sonographer will explain the findings and an ultrasound report will be issued to take away with you.
Breast Ultrasound Scan
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At the end of the examination, we will discuss the findings with you and we will provide you with a digital report for your medical records.
After the scan, you will be able to continue your day as usual.
What if an abnormality is seen during the scan?
If an abnormality is seen during the examination, our sonographer will be able to recommend the necessary follow-up investigations such as an FNA (fine needle aspiration).
Breast ultrasound is safe and painless and produces pictures of the inside of the body using sound waves. It involves the use of a small transducer (probe) and ultrasound gel placed directly on the skin. High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the probe through the gel into the body. The transducer collects the sounds that bounce back and the computer uses those sound waves to create an internal image of the breast without the need for radiation.
During a breast ultrasound examination, the sonographer performing the test may use Doppler techniques to evaluate blood flow or lack of flow in any breast mass. In some cases, this may provide additional information as to the cause of the mass.
Many studies have shown that ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help supplement mammography by detecting breast cancers that may not be visible with mammography. MRI is more sensitive than ultrasound in picking up breast cancer, but MRI may not be available to all women. If screening MRI is performed, then screening ultrasound is not needed, although ultrasound may still be used to characterize and biopsy abnormalities were seen on MRI.
When ultrasound is used for screening, abnormalities not visible with mammography may be identified, including some that may require biopsy. Many of the abnormalities found with screening breast ultrasound are not cancer (false positives), but breast US allows for a full examination.
Ultrasound can be offered as a screening tool for women who:
Are at high risk for breast cancer and unable to undergo an MRI examination.
Are pregnant or should not be exposed to x-rays (which is necessary for a mammogram).
Have increased breast density— when the breasts have a lot of glandular and connective tissue and not much fatty tissue.
What are the benefits and risks of the breast ultrasound scan?
Breast ultrasound scanning is noninvasive (no needles or injections).
Is widely available, easy-to-use and less expensive than other imaging methods.
Is extremely safe and does not use any ionizing radiation.
Gives a clear picture of soft tissues that do not show up well on x-ray images.
Provides real-time imaging, making it a good tool for guiding minimally invasive procedures such as needle biopsies and fluid aspiration.
Can help detect lesions in women with dense breasts.
May help detect and classify a breast lesion that cannot be interpreted adequately through mammography alone.
Using ultrasound, sonographers are able to determine that many areas of clinical concern are due to normal tissue (such as fat lobules) or benign cysts. For most women 30 years of age and older, a mammogram will be used together with ultrasound. For women under age 30, ultrasound alone is often sufficient to determine whether an area of concern needs a biopsy or not.
For a standard diagnostic breast ultrasound, there are no known harmful effects on humans.
Interpretation of a breast ultrasound examination may lead to additional procedures such as follow-up ultrasound and/or aspiration or biopsy. Many of the areas thought to be of concern turn out to be non-cancerous.
What are the limitations of breast scanning?
Ultrasound is one of the tools used in breast imaging, but it does not replace annual mammography.
Many cancers are not visible on ultrasound.
Many calcifications seen on mammography cannot be seen on ultrasound.
Some early breast cancers only show up as calcifications on mammography.
MRI findings that are due to cancer are not always seen with ultrasound.
A biopsy may be recommended to determine if a suspicious abnormality is a cancer or not.
Most suspicious findings on an ultrasound scan that require biopsy are not cancers.
Many clinics do not offer ultrasound screening, and the procedure may not be covered by some insurance plans.
Do I need a doctor's referral for a breast ultrasound scan?
Unlike an NHS hospital breast ultrasound scan, a doctor's referral is not necessary for a private breast scan in our clinic. You can book your breast ultrasound scan by using our online booking system or by calling us.
Can you detect breast cancer with an ultrasound?
The breast ultrasound scan is the best way to find out if the lump is solid (i.e a benign fibroadenoma or cancer) or fluid-filled such as a benign cyst). FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration) will be required to confirm if a solid lump is cancerous.
Is it easy to make a breast screening appointment?
Arranging an appointment at Sonoworld for a breast ultrasound scan is simple. We can arrange an appointment at a convenient time for you on the phone or you can choose your appointment using our online booking schedule. Same-day appointments are usually available if you are experiencing symptoms and you need rapid answers.
Are you looking to book a breast ultrasound without a referral?
You can book a private breast ultrasound in our clinic without a GP referral.
How much does the breast ultrasound cost?
We believe that quick access to diagnostic imaging can improve diagnosis and treatment and consequently life expectancy. The cost of any private examination should not be prohibited from someone's well-being and therefore we are trying to keep the cost of the breast scan in London as low as possible.
Specialities: MSK, Breast, Abdomen, Small Parts, Gynaecology/Obstetrics and Vascular. Daniela Stan is a London based NHS and Private Consultant Sonographer, with more than 20 years’ experience in Healthcare. She holds a degree from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Carol Davilla, Bucharest, Romania and a Medical Doctor License in Family Medicine. After graduating from the Medical School Program in 1997 .. Read More