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Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)

Diagnostic tests: ultrasound scans

An ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to produce a picture of the breast. A woman having a breast ultrasound scan will be asked to take off her clothes from the upper part of her body and lie down on a couch. While she is lying down with her arm above her head, an ultrasound specialist puts gel onto her breast and gently moves a small scanning probe over the area causing concern. This shows a picture of the internal tissue of the breast on a screen.
 
An ultrasound scan is painless and only takes a few minutes to do. Regardless of age, sometimes an ultrasound scan may be done as well as a mammogram when there is an area on the x-ray that needs to be looked at more closely.
 

A doctor explains why a woman might be given an ultrasound scan at the hospital.

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Sex: Male
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When women were recalled and they went to the hospital, often they had more mammograms and an ultrasound scan. And several women wondered why they would need an ultrasound scan as well.
 
Sure, sure. When we’re looking at calcification which has been found on the screening mammograms, we do a work up to find out more about it. And the work up includes a clinical examination, usually the clinical examination is normal, so in other words there is not a lump that we can actually feel in the breast. However it’s still important that there’s a clinical assessment.
 
We then take more specialised mammogram pictures which involve magnifying the area so that we can see the little bits of calcium in more detail, and from looking at the shape and looking very carefully at the appearance on the x-rays, we can then decide whether it is a normal harmless finding and doesn’t need to be further investigated, or whether we need to do a further test in order to find out exactly what the cause is.
 
We sometimes do ultrasound in cases where there’s micro-calcification, simply because if we’re able to see the area well enough on ultrasound it means that we can use the ultrasound to guide a needle biopsy. In a lot of cases, however, when the bits of calcium are very, very tiny, it’s simply impossible to see them clearly enough on ultrasound and in those cases we will use x-ray guidance to be sure that we sample exactly the right area when we are doing a biopsy.
In addition to having more mammograms, several women described having ultrasound scans when they were referred to a breast clinic.
 

Jane found having an ultrasound scan easy.

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 58
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So when you went back, you had another mammogram. You had an ultrasound scan.

 

Yes.

 

And then you had a needle biopsy.

 

Yes.

 

For someone who might be looking at the Internet and wondering what does an ultrasound scan and a needle biopsy involve, how would you describe those two?

 

Well the ultrasound scan was very easy. I just lay back and they just ran this piece of machinery over my breasts and kept up a little running commentary, “Oh I think there’s something there. I think there might be something there.” I wasn’t looking at it or anything. And that was completely unworrying.
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 Last reviewed July 2017.

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