Ultrasound is a widely available, medical imaging technique that has been used for many years. Fast, painless and safe, ultrasound utilizes high frequency sound waves instead of radiation for obtaining images of the inside of the body. The sound waves bounce off the part of the body being imaged and these reflected sound waves, or echoes, are captured and recorded.
Ultrasound is used to detect breast abnormalities such as whether a lump is a cyst or solid. It can further evaluate a problem seen on a mammogram because it can show all areas of the breast, including the area closest to the chest wall, which is difficult to see with a mammogram alone. It is also a helpful tool for minimally-invasive procedures, such as needle biopsies, when the ultrasound image is used to guide the placement of the needle. The Margaret W. Niedland Breast Center offers state-of-the-art Ultrasound Breast Imaging with Elastography to detect and measure hard, cancerous breast tissue with certainty.
Dense breasts are very difficult to see through on a mammogram. Dense breasts are often compared to “looking for a polar bear in an artic snow storm.” Ultrasound becomes very useful in this scenario. Dense breasts are how thick (dense) the breast tissue is. It does not have anything to do with size.
Ultrasound can penetrate through the thickness and find nodules that may be hiding amongst the thicker tissue. Mammo is great at finding calcifications, which are indicative of some cancers. Ultrasounds struggle with finding calcifications, but are great at finding masses on dense tissue. It’s always beneficial to have both an ultrasound and a mammogram.