What Do Radiologists Look for in an Ultrasound?

The radiologist will look for particular criteria of the mass, such as:

  • Shape
  • Orientation
  • The margin of the mass
  • Lesion boundary
  • Echo pattern
  • Posterior acoustic features

This lexicon for masses is called the Breast Imaging-Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS), established by the American College of Radiology. The numerical scale ranges from 0-6, with each number corresponding to a classification that estimates your breast cancer risk. This is where experience matters. The Women’s Imaging Center specialized radiologists have decades of experience to help provide a more certain diagnosis. 

If we discover an indeterminate or suspicious finding, the radiologist may recommend a needle biopsy to determine if the mass is benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancer). A lesion seen by ultrasound can be biopsied using ultrasound as a guide, even if it cannot be felt on clinical or self-breast examination. The physicians at The Women’s Imaging Center use their extensive clinical experience to determine the need for an ultrasound guided breast biopsy.

What to Expect During a Breast Ultrasound

Though a mammogram is often the first preventative imaging exam to look for breast cancer, if the Radiologist finds a nodule or mass on the initial screening mammogram, then a breast ultrasound will be recommended to obtain a better view of the mass to help finalize the results. Here’s what to expect if your doctor recommends a breast ultrasound.

Before the Ultrasound

Wear loose and comfortable clothing as you will need to undress from the waist up. We will provide a robe for you to wear during the ultrasound exam. You will lie down on the exam table. Before we begin, we will apply a water-soluble gel to your skin.

During the Ultrasound

We use a wand-like instrument called a transducer to produce images of your breast tissue. Through sound waves, the transducer captures echoes that bounce off deep tissues in the breast, creating pictures. You may experience slight pressure from the wand, but you should not feel pain.

After the Ultrasound

If a breast biopsy is indicated, we will explain the recommended procedure of ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, and a medical assistant will go over further details. A Women’s Imaging Center Radiologist will correlate the results with your doctor and coordinate any follow-up.

Breast Ultrasound Specialists Near You

Meet Our Specialists

Our physicians are dedicated to serving our community, working hard to help women detect breast abnormalities as early as possible. With decades of experience, we are elevating standards in women’s imaging.

Kelly McAleese, M.D.

Timothy Colt, M.D.

Barbara Jaeger, M.D.

John Lewin, M.D.


Frequently Asked Questions About Breast Ultrasounds

What is a Breast Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a radiology imaging technology that uses sound waves to characterize masses versus cysts in the breast. Sound waves are emitted from crystals in a hand-held wand called a transducer or probe. The sound waves reflected back are presented as images for interpretation by a specialized radiologist to distinguish various findings. Many of the findings we see on a breast ultrasound are too small or too deep to be felt on examination. Some clinicians will recommend whole breast ultrasound to detect small lesions in the breast before they can be felt. This may be in addition or as a substitute for mammography. 

When to get a Breast Ultrasound?

A breast ultrasound may be performed after a screening mammogram to get a ‘closer look’ at a particular area. A breast ultrasound may also be performed to evaluate a specific breast complaint such as a lump or focal pain. The radiologist will interpret the results to determine if the finding is suspicious and needs a biopsy to conclude the final results.

Is a Breast Ultrasound better than a Mammogram?

It depends on the situation. If the radiologist finds a nodule or mass on the initial screening mammogram, then a breast ultrasound will be recommended to obtain a better view of the mass to help finalize the results. If there is a clearly benign finding such as a simple cysts, no follow will be required. If a potentially suspicious finding is discovered, a needle biopsy will be recommended.

When is a breast ultrasound recommended?

Breast self-examination programs are important but alone cannot detect the smallest lesions. Of course, when your clinician finds a bump or a lump of some kind on a clinical exam, he/she will immediately refer the patient for a mammogram. Women with higher than average risk factors may seek additional supplemental imaging such as MRI for strong family history or a whole breast ultrasound for dense tissue.

What are some examples of BI-RADS classifications?

For example, a well-circumscribed isoechoic oval nodule oriented parallel to the skin with a distinct lesion boundary is most likely to be a benign fibroadenoma. These mass characteristics would be categorized as BI-RADS 3: Probably Benign. On the other hand, an irregular spiculated hypoechoic mass taller than wide with posterior shadowing with surrounding echogenic halo is more likely to be malignant (cancer). This lesion would be categorized as BI-RADS 5 with the recommendation for breast biopsy.

What if I need an emergency breast ultrasound?

If you are in need of an emergency breast ultrasound, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible so we can see you at one of our many locations in the Denver area.

Insurance Options We Honor

At the Women's Imaging Center, we accept most major insurance providers and provide affordable self-pay options. If you have any questions about whether we accept your insurance, please contact us at 303-321-2273.

Find a Breast Ultrasound Near Me

If you need a breast ultrasound in Denver, you have come to the right place. With decades of experience and specialization, our staff performs the highest quality breast screening and diagnostic mammography to distinguish normal anatomy from subtle tissue changes to improve your detection and avoid unnecessary callback or discomfort.