Breast Cancer – Diagnostics – Ultrasound
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves that travel through tissue – the reflecting echoes are computed into diagnostic image information. During an ultrasound scan, an ultrasound transducer is moved slowly over the breast and armpit while the patient lies on her back. The physician or sonographer analyzes the images displayed on the monitor.
The advantage: The examination is completely painless and there is no exposure to radiation. Therefore, it can be repeated as often as necessary. Ultrasound, as a supplement to mammography, can also help reveal more cancers than mammography alone.
Supplement to mammography
Ultrasound (or sonography) is the most commonly used method to analyze breast changes, such as a palpable mass or a suspicious finding identified on a mammogram. A distinct advantage of ultrasound is that it can be repeated as often as necessary as there is no exposure to radiation.
While mammography remains the method of choice for breast cancer screening, ultrasound can help reveal more cancers than mammography alone. Ultrasound is especially suited for women with dense breast tissue, which is the case for a substantial number of women in the United States, Europe, and Asia. According to international guidelines, dense breast tissue increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer up to fivefold*. This is why it is important to find out your mammographical breast density and to ask your doctor if an ultrasound in addition to a mammogram is right for you.
Advanced ultrasound applications:
Automated 3D ultrasound
An Automated Breast Volume Scanner (pictured at the top of the page) offers a new method of automatically producing three-dimensional images of the breast. Depending on breast size, the scan takes about 10 to 15 minutes and provides physicians with an increased level of information for comprehensive review and diagnosis. This technique enables views of the breast never before seen with conventional ultrasound, including a slice-by-slice view of the breast from the skin down to the breast wall.
The stiffness of tissue often provides important information about pathology. While healthy tissue is generally soft or “elastic”, hard or stiff tissue may indicate the presence of a tumor. Elastography, a new ultrasound application, is now able to determine whether a tissue mass is stiff or soft, providing additional insight into the nature of a lesion. During the ultrasound examination, the ultrasound transducer is softly pressed onto the breast, while the ultrasound system calculates the stiffness of tissue and displays this information on the ultrasound monitor. This method helps the physician to determine further treatment.
* Nothacker M., et al. BMC Cancer 2009 (9) 355