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Breast ultrasound

Find out what a breast ultrasound is, how you have the test, and what happens afterwards.

You might have a breast ultrasound:

  • as a first test if you have a lump in the breast
  • if you have a lump in your breast that hasn't shown up on a breast x-ray (mammogram)
  • to see if a breast lump is solid or if contains fluid (a cyst)

You might have this test alongside other tests, such as a breast examination and breast x-ray (mammogram) in a one stop clinic. This is called a triple assessment. You might also have a breast biopsy. 

Preparing for your breast ultrasound

There isn’t usually any special preparation for a breast ultrasound.

Take any medicines as normal.

How you have it

The scan is completely painless. 

The ultrasound scanner has a microphone that gives off sound waves. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body, and the microphone picks them up.

The microphone links to a computer that turns the sound waves into a picture on the screen. A sonographer will do your ultrasound. A sonographer is a trained professional who is a specialist in ultrasound scanning.

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What happens

You will need to take off your upper clothing, including your bra, and put on a hospital gown. You lie on a couch for the test.

The sonographer puts a cold lubricating gel over your breast. The gel helps the probe to slide over your skin to give clear pictures on the screen. You might feel a little pressure when the sonographer moves the probe over your breast. Tell them if it is uncomfortable.

It takes just a few minutes. The sonographer might ask you to move position a few times, bringing your arm up and down. 

You can have a family member or a friend with you while you have the scan. Just let the sonographer know that someone will be with you.

After your breast ultrasound

You can get dressed straight after the ultrasound. A specialist looks at the ultrasound pictures. 

If everything looks normal you might not need any further tests. If the test shows a fluid-filled lump, a doctor or nurse might drain the fluid with a needle.

If a solid lump shows on the scan you might need to have more tests. These might include a breast x-ray (mammogram), a breast MRI scan, or taking a sample of cells from the abnormal area (a biopsy).

In a one-stop clinic you have these tests during the same visit.

Getting your results

You might get the results on the same day.

If you had a breast biopsy you might need to wait for a week or so. Waiting for test results can be a very worrying time. You might have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can contact them for information if you need to. It can help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 for information and support. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Contact the staff at the clinic if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

Possible risks

Breast ultrasound is a very safe procedure but your nurse will tell you who to contact if you have any problems after your test.

There are usually no side effects.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.