When a breast cancer has been diagnosed, some people have a liver ultrasound scan to stage the breast cancer.
Staging tells the doctor how big a cancer is and whether it has spread. Knowing the stage helps your doctor decide which treatment you need.
You usually have this if you have symptoms that could be due to the cancer spreading to the liver. The symptoms could be due to other medical conditions though.
You might also have a liver ultrasound scan if:
- there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes under your arm (axilla)
- you have a larger breast cancer, for example bigger than 5 cm
What is an ultrasound ?
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.
Preparing for your liver ultrasound
Check your appointment letter to find out how to prepare for your scan.
Your doctor or nurse might ask you to eat a fat free diet the night beforehand. You might need to stop eating completely from 4 to 8 hours before your scan.
Tell your doctor if not eating could be a problem for you: for example, if you have diabetes.
What to expect
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.
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 should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks at a follow up appointment.
Waiting for test results can be a very worrying time. You might have contact details for a specialist nurse who you can contact for information if you need to. It can help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.
Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.
Ultrasound is a very safe procedure but your nurse will tell you who to contact if you have any problems after your test.