Can an Ultrasound Detect Breast Cancer?

Mammography is your best defense against breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, screening mammograms can reduce breast cancer deaths by approximately 20% to 40%. After you get a mammogram, your doctor may call you back for additional testing. This doesn’t always mean there’s bad news. It could just be that your breast tissue is dense or there is a calcification or benign mass.

Your next test will likely be a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound to get better images of the inside of your breast.

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Breast ultrasounds are used to create sonograms, which are detailed pictures that can show areas inside the breast. Ultrasounds are just one imaging method used to detect breast cancer. Others include:

  • Mammograms
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • PET/CT scans

Breast ultrasounds are typically used early on in the detection process. In some cases a biopsy may be necessary and this can often be done with ultrasound or mammographic guidance.

How a Breast Ultrasound Works

A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to create a computer picture of the inside of the breast. The test is simple, non-invasive and there is no radiation. An ultrasound technician performs the screening by putting a gel on the breast and then moving a wand-like tool called a transducer over the skin. The transducer sends out sound waves which then bounce off tissues.

Ultrasound imaging can provide additional information to doctors if a suspicious spot is found on a mammogram or a lump can be felt but not seen with mammogram screening. It can help detect breast lesions in women with dense breast tissue.

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Loma Linda University Cancer Center
11234 Anderson St, Suite A600, Loma Linda, CA 92354
909-558-2262
Loma Linda University Health – Beaumont – Banning
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Ultrasound and Breast Cancer

Although ultrasound is not typically recommended for screening purposes like mammography, it serves an important role in the detection of breast cancer. Ultrasound imaging can provide additional information to doctors if a suspicious spot is found on a mammogram or a lump can be felt but not seen with mammogram screening. It can help detect breast lesions in women with dense breast tissue. And it can help doctors analyze breast changes or abnormalities in pregnant women because it does not use radiation.

Ultrasound screening of the breast can help differentiate benign masses, such as, a fluid-filled cyst from concerning malignant appearing masses. It can also help doctors examine the size and location of a mass. By using quick, painless, radiation free, ultrasound imaging of a suspicious mass in the screening for breast cancer, women are able to get the most accurate work up.

If doctors are unable to determine whether a mass is benign or cancerous, based on the imaging pictures, they will likely biopsy the tissue. Often, ultrasound imaging is used to guide doctors to the exact location of the suspicious area in the breast so they can take a sample for analysis. These cells are then examined under a microscope by pathologists to determine whether a mass is cancerous.

Comprehensive Diagnostic Services

The Breast Health Center at Loma Linda University Cancer Center offers the most advanced technology in the Inland Empire, enabling us to detect breast cancer earlier and more accurately.

In addition to breast ultrasounds, Loma Linda University Medical Center offers digital and 3-D (or tomosynthesis) mammograms, breast MRI, and minimally-invasive breast biopsy. Loma Linda University Medical Center is the first facility in the Inland Empire to offer noninvasive breast MRIs, which can aid in the diagnosis of breast cancer. A radiologist specialized and dedicated to breast imaging analyzes these studies, offering exceptional expertise and experience.

Early Detection of Breast Cancer

When it comes to breast cancer diagnosis, one path does not fit every person. The types of breast imaging tests used for each patient will depend on a number of factors—from age and medical history to symptoms. However, one thing is constant: breast cancer that is diagnosed in its earliest stages is easiest to treat.

People whose breast cancer is identified early require less invasive treatment and experience better outcomes. After all, the sooner breast cancer is found, the sooner treatment can begin.

Don’t let the fear of breast cancer diagnosis keep you from early detection. Ask your doctor how often you should get regular breast cancer screenings and how to best monitor your breasts.

Patient navigators are registered nurses trained in oncology care to guide you through the challenges of dealing with cancer. They are here to support you as you go through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Contact the Patient Navigator team at 800-782-2623.

Life After Diagnosis

If your screening results in a diagnosis of breast cancer, remember you aren’t alone. At Loma Linda University Health, our patient navigator helps guide you through each step of breast cancer treatment and recovery. And our doctors and staff provide you with the best care and treatment. This is true for patients with all types and stages of breast cancer.

The Breast Health Center compassionate specialists offer a host of services to support women going through breast cancer—from nutrition counseling and physical therapy to support groups. Together, we are empowering women through expert screening technology and advanced treatment options to detect and act on their breast cancer for the best possible outcomes. And we are with you each step of the way.