During a breast ultrasound examination the sonographer or physician performing the test may use Doppler techniques to evaluate blood flow or lack of flow in any breast mass. In some cases this may provide additional information as to the cause of the mass.
What are some common uses of the procedure?• Determining the Nature of a Breast Abnormality
The primary use of breast ultrasound today is to help diagnose breast abnormalities detected by a physician during a physical exam (such as a lump or bloody or spontaneous clear nipple discharge) and to characterize potential abnormalities seen on mammography.
Ultrasound imaging can help to determine if an abnormality is solid (which may be a non-cancerous lump of tissue or a cancerous tumor) or fluid-filled (such as a benign cyst) or both cystic and solid. Ultrasound can also help show additional features of the abnormal area.
Doppler ultrasound is used to assess blood supply in breast lesions.
• Supplemental Breast Cancer Screening
Mammography is the only screening tool for breast cancer that is known to reduce deaths due to breast cancer through early detection. Even so, mammograms do not detect all breast cancers. Some breast lesions and abnormalities are not visible or are difficult to interpret on mammograms. In breasts that are dense, meaning there is a lot of glandular tissue and less fat, many cancers can be hard to see on mammography.
Many studies have shown that ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help supplement mammography by detecting small breast cancers that may not be visible with mammography. MRI is more sensitive than ultrasound in depicting breast cancer, but not all women can tolerate contrast-enhanced breast MRI. MRI is not offered to all women who may benefit from it. Screening ultrasound can be an alternative to MRI for women who cannot tolerate MRI.
If screening MRI is performed, then screening ultrasound is not needed, though ultrasound may be used to characterize and biopsy abnormalities seen on MRI. When ultrasound is used for screening, many abnormalities are seen which may require biopsy but are not cancer (false positives), and this limits its cost effectiveness.
Ultrasound can be offered as a screening tool for women who:
• are at high risk for breast cancer and unable to tolerate an MRI examination.
• are at intermediate risk for breast cancer based on family history, personal history of breast cancer, or prior biopsy showing an abnormal result.
• have dense breasts.
• have silicone breast implants and very little tissue can be included on the mammogram.
• are pregnant or should not to be exposed to x-rays (which is necessary for a mammogram).
information taken from: Radiologyinfo.org
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