There is more to breast imaging than mammography, and one of the imaging tests you may encounter at some time is breast ultrasound. Today we will introduce you to another member of the breast imaging team - the sonographer, or ultrasound technologist. They go by many names, but the important thing for you to know is they are highly trained, skilled individuals with knowledge of the complicated machine that can make images of your body with sound waves (that’s right, sound waves going through and coming back make the image!) and dedicated knowledge of breast tissue and pathology.
You may need a breast ultrasound as a potential follow-up exam to a mammogram. You may be referred for one in addition to a mammogram to evaluate certain symptoms like a mass or breast discharge, Or it may be the first and only imaging test if you are young or pregnant with a symptom. We use it in pregnant patients and the young because it does not use ionizing radiation - a nice plus. The physics involved in getting quality images with ultrasound are complicated, but the procedure for you is low-stress and easy. Gel is used on the skin - this is because the sound waves won’t go through air - and a transducer or probe is used to scan the area of interest.
The sonographer doing your exam will focus on answering the question that prompted the study. They also want you to be comfortable throughout the procedure. If you are at all nervous - speak up! Our committed ultrasound technologists are there to help you by providing valuable information on your breasts - information that is different from the information obtained with mammography or MRI. They each look at different properties of breast tissue. Sonographers are more than machine-operators - they are dedicated, highly trained individuals who love their ability to interact directly with patients - people like you - who need compassion and respect.
They can work with you to find the best position (sitting up or laying back) to image the target area of the breast. And they can assist a doctor when a biopsy is being performed under ultrasound guidance.
In short, when you go in for a breast ultrasound, you are in good hands. The sonographer creating those black and white images on the screen has dedicated years to learning the hows and whys - but their main focus is always on you. Giving you the best possible imaging care is their game.
Image credit: Philips Ultrasound EPIQ - Breast by Philips Communications via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Originally published 11/25/13 on mammographykc.com.