Breast ultrasound

An breast ultrasound creates pictures of the inside of your breast using sound waves. It is able to detect abnormalities in breast tissue which may be difficult to detect using a mammogram.

Why is it done?

A breast ultrasound is used to provide more information to support the results of other tests, such as a mammogram.

A breast ultrasound can be used to:

  • Tell the difference between a solid mass or a cyst.
  • Investigate possible causes of clear or bloody nipple discharge.
  • Help guide positioning of a needle during a breast biopsy.
  • Look for changes suggestive of breast cancer.

Who is it for?

Women who have a lump, dense breasts or an abnormal mammogram may be required to have an ultrasound to provide more information about what is going on in the breast tissue.

It is also the preferred method of breast examination for women who are pregnant, because it is safe and simple to do.

What you need to know about the procedure

You do not need to make any special preparation to have an ultrasound, other than to wear clothing that can be removed from the waist up. You will be provided with a gown to wear.

During the procedure, a small handheld unit called a transducer is passed back and forth over your breast. The transducer sends ultrasonic sound waves through the skin and tissue. These waves bounce back like an echo, which a computer can make into a clear electronic picture of your breast.

A small amount of warm gel will be spread onto your skin to help the transducer glide across the surface. This gel will easily wipe off, with any residue turning to a fine powder that is easily dusted away.


There are no risks in having a breast ultrasound as it does not use x-rays or any other harmful radiation. It is painless and is easy to do taking around 30 minutes.


The radiologist or your doctor will discuss the results with you. Sometimes further testing will be recommended if a solid lump or abnormal area of breast tissue is found.

Credits: Health Navigator Team. Reviewed By: Andreea Dumitru, Senior RN from CCDHB, SIDU - Capital & Coast & Lower Hutt Last reviewed: 31 Oct 2015