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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Early Detection & Screening > Ultrasound

  


Ultrasound

 

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Breast Imaging Methods
Fact Sheet

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Research Fast Facts: Early Detection
Fact Sheet

What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound uses sound waves to make images of the breast. It is non-invasive and often used as a follow-up test after an abnormal finding on a mammogram, breast MRI or clinical breast exam. It may also be used in diagnosis.  

Learn more about follow-up after an abnormal finding.  

Learn more about breast cancer diagnosis

 

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Image courtesy of Lange Productions (http://langeproductions.com/).  

 

Ultrasound and breast cancer screening

Studies show ultrasound alone is not a good breast cancer screening tool and has many false positive and false negative results [29,61,75].  

Ultrasound exams are most often performed with a hand-held ultrasound device (see image above), so the quality of the image can vary greatly depending on the skill and experience of the person doing the exam. Automated ultrasound may help improve image quality and is under active study [76]. However, at this time, it is not widely available or routinely used.  

Learn about breast cancer screening recommendations for women at average risk.  

Learn about breast cancer screening recommendations for women at higher risk.

Under study

More research on the benefits of screening ultrasound in combination with mammography and breast MRI is needed before recommendations can be made on its use [75].  

Talk with your health care provider about breast cancer screening. Together, you can make a screening plan that is right for you.

Ultrasound and dense breast tissue

Ultrasound is better than mammography at identifying tumors within dense breast tissue. Studies have shown mammography combined with ultrasound can find more breast cancers than mammography alone in women with dense breasts [61]. However, mammography plus ultrasound leads to more false positive results than mammography alone [29,61,75].  

Learn more about breast density and mammography.  

Learn more about breast density and breast cancer risk.

Ultrasound for women at higher risk of breast cancer

For women at higher risk of breast cancer, screening ultrasound does not appear to add extra benefit to screening with breast MRI and mammography [61,77]. However, it may be a useful addition to screening mammography among women at higher risk of breast cancer for whom breast MRI is not yet recommended [61].  

Learn about breast cancer screening recommendations for women at higher risk.  

Updated 08/31/13

 

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Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations for Women at Higher Risk  

Breast MRI 

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Emerging Areas in Early Detection 

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