An ultrasound scan is a procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the inside of your body.
The ultrasound scanner has a probe that gives off sound waves. The probe looks a bit like a microphone. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body, and the probe picks them up. The probe links to a computer that turns the sound waves into a picture on the screen.
Ultrasound scans aren't painful but can cause some discomfort. You might have it at one of the following:
- your GP surgery
- local community clinic
- in your hospital x-ray department
A specialist healthcare professional called a sonographer usually does the test.
Why you might have an ultrasound scan
You might have an ultrasound scan to help your doctor to diagnose a neuroendocrine tumour.
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.
They might ask you to drink plenty before your scan so that you have a comfortably full bladder.
Take your medicines as normal unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Before the scan
Before the test you might be asked to remove your clothing and put on a hospital gown. It will depend on what part of the body you're having scanned as to whether you have to undress or not.
During the scan
You lie on the couch next to the ultrasound machine. You might be able to sit up depending on which part of your body is being scanned.
The sonographer will spread a clear gel onto your skin over the area they are checking. The gel feels cold. It helps to transmit the sound waves to the probe. The scan appears on a screen next to you.
You might feel a little pressure as the sonographer presses the probe against your skin and moves it around the area they are scanning. Tell them if this is uncomfortable.
An ultrasound scan can take up to 45 minutes depending on what's being scanned.
What happens afterwards?
You can eat and drink normally after the test. And you can go straight home or back to work.
This is a combination of having an endoscopy and an ultrasound.
An endoscope is a long flexible tube with a light and camera attached. Doctors usually use it to look at the inside of your digestive system. The endoscope can also have an ultrasound probe at the tip. This gives doctors more detailed information.
Doctors use endoscopic ultrasound to look at:
- the wall of the oesophagus (food pipe)
- the wall of the stomach
- part of the small bowel (duodenum)
- the gallbladder and bile ducts
This test can also look at the lymph nodes in your chest and abdomen.
An echo is an ultrasound scan of the heart. It uses sound waves to form a picture. Doctors can look at the structure of your heart and how well it is pumping.
The scan is painless and only takes about half an hour.
An ultrasound scan is a very safe procedure. It doesn’t involve radiation and there are usually no side effects.
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.
Contact the doctor that arranged the test if you haven't heard anything after a couple of weeks.
Most people have several tests to diagnose a NET. You can find out what other tests you might have in your specific NET section.