From Our Experts, News + Insights  |  January 28, 2020  |  Susan Kennedy, MD

What is the role of breast ultrasound?

Dr. Susan KennedyWe can all agree that gathering additional information is helpful when we have to make an important decision. For radiologists, a breast ultrasound can do just that – provide additional information – and is often a useful compliment after a screening mammogram. Many women get scared or worried when the radiologist recommends a breast ultrasound. Learn more about how breast ultrasound is most effectively used from Dr. Susan Kennedy, one of our breast imaging radiologists.

The Role of Breast Ultrasound

Breast ultrasound or sonography is best used in conjunction with a patient’s mammogram to obtain a more in-depth look at a specific area in the breast such as a palpable lump, focal area of pain or focal abnormality seen on a screening mammogram. Breast ultrasound can help radiologists determine whether a mass seen on a mammogram is solid or cystic.

Mammography and Breast Ultrasound

Mammography and breast ultrasound are complimentary tools. Ultrasound can help explain a mammogram’s findings, but should not be used in place of a screening mammogram – even for women who have dense breast tissue – because many breast cancers are only seen on a mammogram.

For example, breast cancer can present as just a small group of microcalcifications on a patient’s mammogram. These microcalcifications are not well visualized on ultrasound. It is true that mammograms are not able to detect 100% of all breast cancers, but a mammogram – specifically 3D mammograms – is still the most effective screening test for breast cancer that we have today. It should also be noted that a small percentage of breast cancers can only be seen on ultrasound and this is why ultrasound is used in conjunction with the patient’s mammogram and physical exam.

Quality and Breast Ultrasound

The quality of breast ultrasound is extremely important. In fact, it can make all the difference in detecting a breast cancer or not. The quality of breast ultrasound can vary greatly from facility to facility. The two most important factors in a obtaining a good quality breast ultrasound are:

  • The skill and experience of the technologist doing the exam
  • The quality of the ultrasound equipment

It doesn’t matter if you have a state-of-the-art ultrasound machine if you have an inexperienced ultrasound technologist performing the exam. At WakeRad UNC REX, all of our experienced breast sonographers are certified by ​​The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography® (ARDMS®) and all of our outpatient breast imaging offices have met the rigorous quality standards required to earn accreditation by the American College of Radiology for Breast Ultrasound.

Breast Ultrasound at WakeRad UNC REX

We understand that being referred for a breast ultrasound can cause anxiety. That’s why all breast ultrasounds performed at WakeRad UNC REX are reviewed in real-time by our specialized breast radiologists. This ensures that an abnormality can be evaluated immediately and results can be provided during the appointment. This attention and care is different from other local offices that offer automated screening breast ultrasound.

Schedule Your Screening Mammogram Today

We hope this gives you a better understanding of breast ultrasound. Remember, the first step to breast health is with a screening 3D mammogram. If you have not had your annual screening mammogram, call our Scheduling Team at 919-232-4700 or request an appointment online now. WakeRad UNC REX is Triangle’s leader in 3D mammography with multiple, convenient locations throughout the greater Raleigh area.

About Our Expert

Dr. Susan Kennedy
Susan L. Kennedy, MD — Dr. Susan Kennedy joined the practice in 1996. She is a breast imaging radiologist with special clinical interests in mammography. Learn More...

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