Breast Ultrasound and Mammogram: Which One is Right for a Woman?

In the early stages of breast cancer, symptoms may not be felt. While you can feel some breast lumps, some malignant tumors can be detected only with a mammogram, Breast ultrasound, or MRI. Breast cancer signs include the development of breast or underarm lumps, breast swelling or thickening, nipple area pain, breast redness, and others. 

Just because you have a breast lump does not automatically mean you have cancer. You need to have a doctor confirm your condition. Although some women with breast cancer experience breast pain, this symptom may not be a sign of cancer. Hormonal fluctuations, injury, or wrong bra support may cause pain. If you notice a breast lump or other abnormalities, see a doctor as soon as possible. Imaging procedures may be ordered to confirm the condition.  

What is a Mammogram?

A mammogram provides an X-ray-taken picture of the breasts. It is used to detect breast cancer in its early stages. Sometimes, this procedure lets a doctor detect breast cancer 3 years before a tumor becomes quite visible. 

A mammogram provides varying benefits depending on the cancer risk and age of a woman. Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 may benefit women who have an average risk of developing breast cancer. But a doctor can determine the frequency of a mammogram by weighing both its pros and cons. More frequent mammograms may be recommended for women who are a higher risk of cancer. 

When to Get Breast Ultrasound?

Typically, doctors do not use breast ultrasound as a routine screening breast cancer test. However, this procedure can be useful for discovering some changes in the breast like lumps. Ultrasound is particularly helpful in women who have dense breast tissue. Mammograms may not effectively see abnormal areas if breast tissue is dense. Also, ultrasound can be used to better examine a suspicious area that a mammogram detects. It can usually tell the difference between solid masses and fluid-filled masses such as cysts. 

Breast ultrasound may not detect early signs of breast tumor, so it is not used to screen breast cancer. Some women are better candidates for breast ultrasound than a mammogram. Often, pregnant women do not undergo X-rays unless the imaging is necessary. In this case, they can benefit from a breast ultrasound. Also, an ultrasound might be good for younger women, especially those in their 20s. A doctor can help a patient decide whether they can benefit from a breast ultrasound or a diagnostic mammogram.