Liver ultrasound for secondary breast cancer

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 may have this test to show if your breast cancer has spread to the liver.

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.

Your doctor might also suggest you have a CT scan. This can also show whether the breast cancer has spread to the liver.

Preparing for your scan

Check your appointment letter for any instructions about how to prepare for your scan.

You might need to stop eating for 6 hours beforehand. Let the scan team know if this will be a problem for any reason, for example if you are diabetic.

Take your medicines as normal unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

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.

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

Your scan will be looked at by a specialist doctor and you should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. You won't get any results at the time of the scan. 

Waiting for test results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact them if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You might have the contact details for a specialist nurse. You can contact them for information and support if you need to. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel. 

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

Contact the doctor that arranged the test if you haven't heard anything after a couple of weeks.

Possible risks

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

  • Advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and treatment

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) 2009,  Last updated: 2017

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures, 9th Professional Edition
    L Dougherty and S Lister (Editors) (Royal Marsden Manual Series)
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

  • ESMO International Consensus Guidelines for Advanced Breast Cancer
    F Cardoso and others 
    Annals of Oncology, 2018. Volume, Pages 1634–1657

Last reviewed: 
29 Oct 2020
Next review due: 
29 Oct 2023

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