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When Do You Need A Breast Ultrasound Procedure?

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

When Do You Need A Breast Ultrasound Procedure?

Often, when people worry about diagnosing problems in the breast, they immediately think of mammograms. But, mammography isn’t the only imaging test that determines changes in the breast. We also have the breast ultrasound procedure. When is this test needed, and what can you expect if your doctor recommends you to have it? The answers and more in this article. 

What is a Breast Ultrasound Procedure?

If in mammography there’s a machine to “flatten” the breast to examine its tissues, a breast ultrasound procedure uses a wand or a transducer. 

As the doctor or radiologist moves the transducer along the breast, it produces sound waves that bounce off the tissues. These sound waves produce the images, which you can see in the monitor. 

When Do You Need a Breast Ultrasound? 

Note that it’s unlikely for a doctor to order a breast ultrasound alone. In most cases, they use this imaging test together with other tools, like mammography. 

You might need a breast ultrasound procedure if:

  • There is a palpable lump in the breast and the doctor decides to use ultrasound first. 
  • The doctor sees something in the mammography and wants to follow up. Since the breast ultrasound procedure can be moved to a specific area, it’s a good tool for a “second look” on suspicious areas. 
  • You feel changes in your breast, but they do not show in the mammography results. 
  • The doctor wants to check if the lump is fluid-filled (cyst, which is usually not cancerous) or a solid mass (which needs further testing)
  • You need a biopsy. The breast ultrasound procedure will be used to guide a needle to the mass. 

What to Expect in a Breast Ultrasound Procedure

Should your doctor order a breast ultrasound, here’s what you can expect before, during, and after. 


For a breast ultrasound procedure, it’s best not to apply powder or lotion on or near the skin of the breast. It’s also better not to wear deodorant. These substances might interfere with having clear images. 


Once at the clinic, the staff will ask you to take off your top, including your bra. They will give you a hospital gown to wear and ask you to lie down. You may need to assume a certain position for optimal imaging. 

The radiologist will apply a lubricant (clear gel) on your breast or the transducer. Note that this might feel cold. 

Next, they will move the wand around your breasts and axilla. You may feel a little pressure as they press and move the wand; be sure to let them know if it’s uncomfortable. The doctor might also ask you to move from time to time to get clearer images. 

Overall, the breast ultrasound procedure will be completed within 15 to 30 minutes. 


After, the doctor will wipe the lubricant off of your skin and you’ll be asked to change back into your clothes. 

The images are ready, but you might need to wait for hours or days for the interpretation. 

There’s no downtime for a breast ultrasound. That means you can resume your activities right after. 

Final Reminders

Once received, the results can be brought to your doctor. If the doctors do not find anything suspicious, you probably do not need any further testing. If they see something, they might ask you to undergo other tests, like a mammogram or biopsy. 

Key Takeaways

A breast ultrasound procedure uses sound waves from a transducer to produce images of the inside of the breast. Doctors usually use it along with other tools to determine if there are changes in the breast that need to be addressed. 
The entire procedure only lasts for about 15 to 30 minutes, but you might have to wait for a couple of hours or days for the interpretation. A breast ultrasound has no downtime, so you can resume your usual activities right after. 

Learn more about Breast Cancer here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Sep 20, 2022

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