Breast ultrasound is usually reserved as an additional tool to work-up or characterize abnormalities felt, or found at mammography.
Most commonly, the ultrasound helps us distinguish cysts from solid masses. Cysts are extremely common, particularly with increasing age. They are non-cancerous fluid collections in the breast. Most resolve on their own. If large or painful, they can be aspirated for relief of symptoms. Some people have greater tendencies for developing cysts. Caffeine products are felt to aggravate fibrocystic disease.
Ultrasound can also be used to evaluate masses that can be felt by patients or their doctors. This is particularly helpful in patients younger than the screening age population (< 35 years old), or patients with dense breasts at mammography (nursing mothers or patients with known dense breasts at mammography).
The breast ultrasound is a painless procedure. A gel is applied to the skin to allow the sound waves to transmit through the skin. A sonographer then scans with a transducer using light pressure.
Biopsies or cyst aspirations can be performed with ultrasound guidance by experienced physicians.