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Breast Cancer

Breast cancer; ultrasound versus mammogram



A twenty year old female is found to have a lump in her breast on a routine wellness exam. A mammogram is not ordered; instead an ultrasound is recommended. Could you suggest rationale for the ultrasound versus mammogram?


An ultrasound is the use of high frequency sound waves that are sent through the breast to detect a lump or obtain information about a lump already found in the breast tissue. There is no radiation used with this diagnostic procedure. It is used mostly to investigate a known lump. For example, this technique can help determine whether the lump is filled with fluid, like a cyst, or if it is solid, like a fibroadenoma or a cancerous lump. If it is a cyst, the sound waves of the ultrasound go through it. If it is solid, the sound waves bounce back. Ultrasonography (ultrasound) is the technique of choice to study breast conditions in women under age 35 who have dense breast tissue. It can differentiate between definite tumors with edges or very dense areas of tissue with no definite lumps. Its best use is to explore a lump or an area which has been already found by physical examination or mammography. In the case you presented, I hope I have made it clear why mammography was not indicated. Thank you for writing.

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Response by:

Janet   Trigg, RN, MSN, EdD Janet Trigg, RN, MSN, EdD
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati