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Published: 27/01/2023

The role of breast ultrasound in monitoring breast health

Breast ultrasound is a medical imaging technique that uses sound waves to produce pictures of the internal structures and anatomy of the breast. It is often used as an adjunct method to mammography in detecting, evaluating and monitoring breast diseases. Ultrasound imaging can provide valuable information about the structure of the breasts, such as size, shape, density, and how much tissue is present. It can also help detect abnormalities such as cysts, calcifications, masses, or tumours. Additionally, in some instances, ultrasound may be used for biopsy guidance or for documenting changes over time in response to therapy.

The American College of Radiology recommends using breast ultrasound when supplementary information is necessary and when other imaging tests cannot be performed or are inconclusive. Breast ultrasound has several advantages over other types of imaging, including its non-invasive nature (no ionizing radiation) and its ability to provide real-time images while avoiding compression artefacts. In contrast to other modalities, such as mammography, ultrasound results are not exposed to interpretation bias as they are generated primarily by machine algorithms rather than by an individual radiologist's overall clinical knowledge and experience. Moreover, ultrasound remains available even during pregnancy and lactation, when radiographic contrast agents should generally be avoided.

Therefore, breast ultrasound has the potential to not only provide additional data but also serve as an invaluable tool for multi-modality management decisions at any stage of breast cancer detection, from initial screening through diagnostic workup and assess treatment response. Working with your healthcare team before each test and understanding what will occur will help you feel more comfortable about undergoing a breast ultrasound examination so that you can safely monitor your breast health.

Benefits of Breast Ultrasound

Breast ultrasound is an essential diagnostic tool used to evaluate breast health. It is a non-invasive imaging test that uses sound waves to produce pictures of a woman’s breast. It is generally used to examine lumps or abnormalities that can’t be felt during a physical breast exam.

Let’s look at some of the advantages of ultrasound for monitoring breast health:

Early Detection of Breast Cancer

Early detection of breast cancer plays a key role in improving the chances of successful treatment. Breast ultrasound is an excellent tool for detecting breast cancer in its early stages. This type of imaging is beneficial for women who have dense breasts, which can make it more difficult to detect tumours with mammography.

Breast ultrasound offers several advantages as a detection method for breast cancer:

  • It takes only about 10 minutes to conduct a breast ultrasound, and it can be done without the use of anaesthesia.
  • Ultrasound imaging produces images that are easier to interpret than those from mammograms and does not require radiation exposure.
  • Breast ultrasound provides perfect accuracy for detecting tumours smaller than 1 cm, which often cannot be seen on mammograms – helping primary care physicians and radiologists find malignancies earlier, potentially improving patient outcomes.
  • The procedure is painless, safe, and noninvasive.
  • Since it emits no radiation, it can be used to follow up on suspicious findings from mammograms or other imaging techniques with minimal risk.

In addition to these benefits, routine breast ultrasounds are recommended if you’re at an elevated risk for developing breast cancer due to factors such as age, genetics or lifestyle choices that may increase your likelihood of developing the disease. For individuals with no prior diagnosis of breast cancer or precancerous lesions, annual screening with clinical examination and digital flexibility tomosynthesis (DFT) every year between ages 25 and 74 is also recommended.

Ability to Monitor Changes in Breast Tissue

Breast ultrasound is an imaging tool used to detect and monitor changes in breast tissue. By using sound waves, the sonographer can distinguish between cysts and solid nodules, evaluate the structure of breast tissues, and provide information that may indicate a risk for developing breast cancer or other health conditions. Ultrasound can also be used to observe changes in existing lesions, monitor suspicious lesions after treatment or biopsy, or detect tiny tumours that can be difficult to see on a mammogram.

Because ultrasound technology produces images without radiation exposure, it is generally considered safe for pregnant patients or those with implants as opposed to mammography, which uses x-rays and could harm the breasts during pregnancy. However, although specific benign and malignant features can be identified with ultrasound imaging, it is not considered sufficient in itself for the detection of tumours due to its limited resolution compared to other imaging modalities such as MRI or mammography. Furthermore, ultrasound might not be able to distinguish between benign cysts and certain types of malignant tumours.

Non-Invasive Nature

One of the most significant benefits of breast ultrasound is its non-invasive nature. Traditional imaging techniques, such as X-rays, can be uncomfortable and can expose the patient to potential radiation exposure; however, ultrasound imaging uses sound waves to create images, meaning it’s safe and easy on the body. This makes it an ideal diagnostic tool for detecting tumours and other abnormalities within the breast.

In addition to its benefits to patients, breast ultrasound can provide a more accurate diagnosis than other methodologies due to its ability to penetrate deeply into tissue while maintaining superior resolution. Ultrasound technology also offers the benefit of scanning both breasts simultaneously with just one device, making scans much less cumbersome for patients. It’s also a relatively quick process; 4D breast ultrasounds typically take less than five minutes per exam.

The non-invasive nature of ultrasound technology, combined with its accuracy and ease of use, make it an invaluable tool for physicians in monitoring and diagnosing issues with their patients’ breasts.

Types of Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure used for diagnostic imaging and for monitoring breast health. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of internal structures of the body. There are several types of ultrasound that can be used to detect and diagnose breast issues, including:

  • Breast ultrasound
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Contrast-enhanced ultrasound

This section will provide an overview of the different types of ultrasound and their uses in detecting breast issues.

Diagnostic Ultrasound

Diagnostic ultrasound, also referred to as medical ultrasound, is a type of imaging technique that allows doctors to evaluate and diagnose various conditions. This imaging technology uses sound waves to obtain detailed images of organs and other structures inside the body.

Diagnostic ultrasounds are typically used for screening or monitoring breast health in diagnostic mammography imaging. During this type of ultrasound procedure, the doctor will place an ultrasound probe on the patient’s chest wall or directly onto the breast tissue to generate a clear picture of any potential abnormalities within the breast area. The high-frequency sound waves emitted by the imaging equipment enable physicians to detect any masses or irregular growths that could indicate breast cancer. In addition, diagnostic ultrasounds can help evaluate cysts and other benign lumps that may present symptoms similar to breast cancer.

Screening Ultrasound

Screening ultrasound (also known as diagnostic ultrasound or sonography) is a noninvasive imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of structures within your body. This type of ultrasound is typically used to examine areas such as the abdomen, breast and heart. A screening ultrasound produces detailed images from which doctors can see the size and shape of organs, the movement of tissues and other internal structures. It may be used to diagnose a variety of conditions, including:

  • Abnormalities in abdominal organs
  • Problems with blood vessels
  • The presence of gallstones or kidney stones
  • Infections in the uterus or bladder
  • Generally assess the overall health of an organ, such as its size and shape, as well as any potential problems that may be present.

In addition to its diagnostic capabilities, screening ultrasound can be used in some cases for therapeutic purposes. For example, it might be used to destroy tumours by using targeted sound waves. It’s important to remember that this type of ultrasound should not be used for prenatal diagnosis; instead, obstetric ultrasounds are more suitable for examining pregnancies at any stage.

Risks of Ultrasound

Ultrasound imaging has long been used in the medical field as an aid to diagnose various medical ailments. Breast ultrasound is one such application which has been used to diagnose and monitor changes in breast health. However, like any medical procedure, there are risks associated with ultrasound imaging.

In this section, we will explore the potential risks associated with breast ultrasound:

Radiation Exposure

Ultrasound imaging, or sonography, requires the use of a transducer. This device works by emitting high-frequency sound waves that are reflected by tissue in the body. The reflected sound waves produce a picture on the screen known as an ultrasound image. Unlike other imaging technologies such as x-ray and CT, no radiation exposure is associated with ultrasound imaging.

Nevertheless, this type of imaging is not without its potential risks. One potential risk associated with ultrasound imaging of the breast is trauma from over-pressing the transducer against the breast tissue during the examination. This can cause some discomfort during and after the ultrasound examination, as well as skin problems that may persist after your exam has concluded. Additionally, there is concern that repetitive exposure to ultrasonic energy could potentially cause changes in blood vessels that could increase one's risk for cancer over time; however, this has not been definitively proven.

Therefore, it is essential to speak with your doctor and practice good breast care to ensure that your exam results are accurate and reliable and pose minimal risk to overall health.

False Results

When it comes to the risks associated with ultrasounds for breast health, false results are top of mind. False results – both false-positive and false-negative – can lead to unnecessary tests and treatments and can also affect one’s emotional well-being.

False-positive results occur when a test suggests the possibility of an abnormal issue where none actually exists. This type of result is relatively frequent in breast ultrasound because radiologists look for patterns that deviate from average; even a slight difference can result in a false-positive. False positives can lead to more invasive testing or unnecessary treatments, potentially resulting in discomfort or psychological distress due to the added anxiety of such uncertainty.

False-negative results occur when a test fails to detect an abnormality despite its presence. This can just be as detrimental as a false positive due to delayed diagnosis or treatment plans which could have saved lives or improved prognosis. In some cases, individuals may receive negative breast ultrasound results only to find a malignant tumour through another imaging test months later.


The role of ultrasound in the monitoring of breast health is an important one. Ultrasound has been shown to be an efficient screening tool for identifying and characterizing existing or developing abnormalities in both women and men. It can accurately detect, diagnose and monitor a variety of suspicious lesions in the breasts, allowing for early detection and/or treatment of cancer.

Ultrasound also provides an effective means of monitoring treatment response if a woman has had either a mastectomy or radiation therapy following a breast cancer diagnosis. Ultrasound can help identify which lesions will require surgical biopsy for definitive diagnosis or to determine whether treatment goals have been met.

Therefore, it is clear that due to its high accuracy in detecting, diagnosing and monitoring such abnormalities, ultrasound should be considered as a regular part of any woman’s breast health management plan, no matter what her age or risk factors may be.

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Ultrasound London Clinic Address:
29 Weymouth Street, Marylebone, London, W1G 7DB
Phone: 020 3633 4902 Email: info@sonoworld.co.uk or sonoworlduk@gmail.com
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