An ultrasound uses sound-waves to build up a picture of the breast tissue. You will also have an ultrasound of the lymph nodes in the armpit.

What is a breast ultrasound?

An ultrasound uses sound-waves to build up a picture of the breast tissue. It can show if a lump is solid (made of cells) or if it is a fluid-filled cyst. It can also show whether a solid lump is regular or irregular in shape.

You will be asked to remove the clothes from the top half of your body. Then you lie down on a couch with your arm above your head. The person doing the scan puts a gel onto your breast tissue. They move a small device over the area. A picture of the breast tissue shows up on a screen. An ultrasound only takes a few minutes and is painless.

Ultrasound of the lymph nodes

You will also have an ultrasound of the lymph nodes in the armpit. If any of the nodes feel swollen or look abnormal on the ultrasound, the doctor will take a biopsy of them.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our breast cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    European Society for Medical Oncology. Primary breast cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of oncology 26 (supplement 5): v8–v30. 2015.

    Morrow M, et al. Chapter 79: malignant tumors of the breast. DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg’s cancer: principals and practice of oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2014.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and management. July 2018.

    Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. SIGN 134. Treatment of primary breast cancer: a national clinical guideline. September 2013.


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Rebecca Roylance, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.


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