Breast Ultrasound

Breast ultrasound uses sound waves to generate images of breast tissue. This technology often is used to evaluate areas of concern, like a breast lump, or as a follow-up to an inconclusive mammogram. Breast ultrasound also can be used in tandem with diagnostic mammography, as it allows physicians to zoom in on a specific area, while mammography images are used to evaluate the entire breast.


About Breast Ultrasound

Breast ultrasound technology uses sound waves to provide real-time images of the breast for radiologists and patients to view on a computer screen. It’s particularly helpful in gathering more information on a specific breast concern, whether a lump found by a patient or an area identified on a mammogram. Breast ultrasound does not replace the need for mammography; rather, it’s used to generate additional images of breast tissue that requires further study.


For some patients, physicians will request additional imaging, like contrast-enhanced mammography, breast MRI, or even needle biopsy of the breast. Keep in mind that these exams are more likely to rule out breast cancer than to end with a cancer diagnosis! Regardless of the outcome, you are in very capable hands with ARA Health. Our physicians are subspecialized in breast imaging, which means they are true experts in their field. And as part of our commitment to helping each patient achieve optimal breast health, we offer breast density and breast cancer risk assessments, which provide useful information in the creation of personalized screening strategies.

You have questions. We have answers.

Below you'll find answers to some of the questions we are commonly asked by patients. Please contact our ARA Cares Coordinator at (828) 436-5500 with any additional questions or concerns.

Can I schedule a breast ultrasound myself?
Breast ultrasound requires a physician’s order and cannot be scheduled directly by the patient. Our ARA Cares Coordinator can answer your questions or help you obtain a physician’s order.
How do I prepare for a breast ultrasound?
It is helpful to wear a two-piece outfit so that just your top may be removed. Please do not wear lotion or deodorant, as these products may damage our equipment.
What can I expect during a breast ultrasound
Breast ultrasounds are noninvasive and painless and are most often performed in combination with a diagnostic mammogram. A breast ultrasound-certified, female technologist will perform your exam and explain the procedure before getting started. After checking in, you will undress from the waist up and put on a gown that opens in the front. During the exam, you will lie on a table as the technologist applies a hypoallergenic, water-soluble gel to your breast. This prevents air from getting between the ultrasound wand and your skin. The wand will be passed over the surface of your breast with light pressure, producing a picture of the breast tissue on the ultrasound screen. The scan generally takes 15-30 minutes.
When will I receive the results?
Breast ultrasounds are read immediately by one of our subspecialized radiologists. He or she will discuss the results with you, as well as any necessary follow-up, before you leave the appointment. Your primary physician also will receive a report.
What should I know about breast cancer?
  • 75-85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history.
  • One in eight women will be impacted by breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • When caught early, the five-year survival rate of breast cancer is 99%.
  • Breast cancers found in women under age 50 often are more aggressive, making screening mammography an important health tool for women in their 40s.
  • The cancer incidence rate increases with age, making annual mammography even more important to women ages 50+.
  • Men can also get breast cancer, although it is much less common than it is for women.
What increases my risk for breast cancer?

All women are at risk for developing breast cancer. The two biggest risk factors are being female and getting older. Other factors that increase a person's risk include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • having a sedentary lifestyle
  • drinking more than one alcoholic drink a day
  • exposure to high-dose radiation, particularly before age 30 (e.g. radiation therapy)
  • family history of breast cancer
  • inherited genetic mutations
  • using hormone therapy after menopause
What decreases my risk for breast cancer?

Several factors can decrease a person's risk of breast cancer, including:

  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • exercising regularly, on average 3-4 hours a week
  • one or more full-term pregnancies
  • first full-term pregnancy before age 25
  • breastfeeding for more than 15 months (total months across all children)
  • menopause before age 50
What is breast density?
Breast density measures the amount of fatty, glandular, and fibrous tissue in the breast. Dense breasts have more glandular and fibrous tissue than fat, and the only way to determine this is through a mammogram. Radiologists use a scale approved by the American College of Radiology. Women who have breast density of level A or B have more fatty tissue, while women with breast density of level C or D have more glandular and fibrous tissue, which means they have dense breasts. Dense tissue makes breast cancer more difficult to detect on a mammogram and is also a risk factor for developing breast cancer. Approximately 40% of women over age 40 have dense breast tissue. Women who have been identified as having category C or D density on a mammogram may sit down with our clinical specialist at our Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Clinic to discuss in detail what this means and how to best address it with a supplemental screening plan.
When should I begin annual mammograms?

Experts agree that beginning breast screening at age 40 saves the most lives; however, women who have an increased risk of developing breast cancer should begin them earlier. Understanding your personal risk for developing breast cancer can empower you to make informed decisions about your own breast health. ARA Health's subspecialized breast radiologists, along with the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging, recommend:

Age 30: All women should undergo a breast cancer risk assessment (especially Black women and those of Ashkenazi Jewish decent).

Age 40: All women should have a 3D screening mammogram and plan to repeat them every 12 months (not just every calendar year).