Ultrasound of the breast

Synonyms in a broader sense

Ultrasound examination, sonography, sonography

Ultrasound as a preventive examination

The ultrasound examination of the breast (mammography) is an important examination method which, in addition to palpation and mammography screening, is mainly used to detect breast cancer. The great advantage of an ultrasound examination of the breast is that this method (in contrast to mammography, which works with X-rays, for example) does not involve any radiation exposure whatsoever and is therefore not associated with any risk for a patient. In order to examine the breast using ultrasound, a so-called contact gel must be applied to the skin.

The ultrasound probe is then placed on top of this gel, with which the doctor runs over the skin and thus obtains images of the inside of the breast, which are displayed on a screen on the ultrasound machine. There are several reasons why an ultrasound examination is recommended. The most common reason why an ultrasound is performed is due to unclear palpation.

This means that a patient herself or the gynaecologist notices a hardening or compression within the breast during a preventive examination, which is suspicious of a tumor in the breast (breast cancer, breast carcinoma). Other changes in the breast (e.g. pain, reddening of the skin, leakage of fluid from the nipple, protrusions, retractions or other changes in the surface of the skin of the breast or nipple) or an unclear finding during mammography can also be a reason for ordering an ultrasound scan to rule out breast cancer. These symptoms can also occur in men and can be an indication of breast cancer in men, which is why an ultrasound examination should be performed in these cases as well.

With the help of ultrasound waves, a two-dimensional image is produced in the usual form of presentation (the 2D real-time mode), in which the different tissues have different brightness levels due to different density. While structures that strongly reflect the waves, such as bone or calcium, appear almost white on the ultrasound image, liquid-filled objects are darker to black. As a result, nodes can be easily distinguished from cysts using ultrasound examination.

Cysts (as opposed to lumps, which actually consist of mammary gland tissue) are hollow spaces filled with fluid and are normally harmless findings. However, when the breast is palpated, they may feel lumpy in some cases. Ultrasound can therefore often spare the patient a biopsy, which would otherwise be used for a more detailed examination of suspicious nodular structures.

Lime, on the other hand, cannot be visualized very well by ultrasound. As this can be an indication of a preliminary stage or an already existing breast carcinoma, it is important to detect calcification in the breast in time. For this reason, ultrasound is not the only early detection method of cancer, but must always be used sensibly in combination with mammography (and palpation).

Lymph nodes, which can be enlarged in the context of breast cancer or simple infections, can usually be visualized well with ultrasound. Particularly in younger women, the glandular tissue of the breast is in most cases still so dense that no meaningful findings can be obtained by mammography and sonography is therefore the method of choice for assessing the structure of the breast. or Ultrasound in physical therapyIf ultrasound detects abnormalities in the breast, a special form of ultrasound examination, known as Doppler sonography, can be used.

During this examination the blood circulation in the breast can be assessed: Since a tumor, like any other tissue, needs blood vessels that supply it with the necessary nutrients, the imaging of the blood flow in a suspicious area can provide indications of the possible presence of malignant degeneration. If an ultrasound examination of the breast is ordered by the doctor due to a medical necessity (such as an unclear palpation or to monitor the progress of a therapy), the costs of this measure are covered by the statutory health insurance companies.However, if patients feel the need for such an examination even without any of the above findings, they can pay for it themselves for an amount between 35 and 75 euros.