What is the role of ultrasonography in the workup of breast cancer?

Updated: Sep 23, 2020
  • Author: Pavani Chalasani, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: John V Kiluk, MD, FACS  more...
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Answer

Ultrasonography has become a widely available and useful adjunct to mammography in the clinical setting. It is generally employed to assist the clinical examination of a suspicious lesion detected on mammography or physical examination. As a screening tool, ultrasonography is limited by a number of factors, most notably its failure to detect microcalcifications and its poor specificity (34%).

Originally, ultrasonography was used primarily as a relatively inexpensive and effective method of differentiating cystic breast masses, which did not require sampling, from solid breast masses, which were usually examined with biopsy; in many cases, the results of these biopsies were benign. However, it is now well established that ultrasonography also provides valuable information about the nature and extent of solid masses and other breast lesions and can often provide useful information regarding the staging of the axilla.

This imaging technique is also useful in the guidance of biopsies and therapeutic procedures; research is currently under way to evaluate its role in cancer screening.


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