Ultrasound scan of the tummy (abdomen)

Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the body.

They can show up changes, including abnormal growths. You might have one to diagnose a cancer or find out if it has spread.

The ultrasound scanner has a microphone that gives off sound waves. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body and a microphone picks them up. The microphone links to a computer that turns the sound waves into a picture.

You usually have them in the hospital x-ray department.

Why you might have an ultrasound?

You might have an ultrasound of your tummy to see if your cancer has spread and what treatment you can have.

Preparing for your ultrasound

There are no specific preparations for an ultrasound scan of your tummy (abdomen).

What happens

When you arrive at the clinic you might need to take off your upper clothing and put on a hospital gown. You lie on a couch.

The person who does the scan is called a sonographer.

During the scan

The sonographer puts a cold lubricating gel over your tummy (abdomen). Then they put the handheld probe on your skin.

They move the probe over your skin. You might feel a little pressure at times. Tell them if it is uncomfortable.

Diagram of an abdominal ultrasound

What happens afterwards

You can eat and drink normally after the test. You can go straight home or back to work afterwards.

Getting your results

You usually get your results within a few weeks of your test. Your specialist will give them to you. Your GP may also receive a copy of the results. 

Waiting for results can be an anxious time. It might be useful to talk to someone close to you.

If you want to talk to someone, you can contact our team of specialist cancer information nurses. Call free on 0808 800 4040, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Possible risks

Ultrasound of your tummy (abdomen) is a very safe procedure but your nurse will tell you who to contact if you have any problems after your test. Your doctors will make sure the benefits of having an ultrasound of your tummy (abdomen) outweigh any possible risks.

Last reviewed: 
08 Dec 2021
Next review due: 
08 Dec 2024
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