Three in every 100 Filipina women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
In fact, 2017 breast cancer data from the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society Society said that the country had the highest prevalence of breast cancer in February 2017. Despite the ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the disease, many are still lacking the proper knowledge on breast cancer.
This is why The Hospital at Maayo has established its Women’s Wellness Unit: to help Filipino women understand their health through a variety of medical services in Cebu. Its team is ready to guide you through different services – like the process of breast ultrasound – so patients could have a comfortable wellness experience.
Of course, going through a medical exam for the first time would instill fear into anyone – especially when it’s done in sensitive areas, more so if it could help determine grave diseases like cancer.
So, if it’s your first time going through the entire breast ultrasound process, here’s a quick guide to help ease up your nerves.
What is a breast ultrasound, and why do I need it?
Breast Ultrasound, as defined by Johns Hopkins Medicine, is an imaging test that uses sound waves to help your healthcare providers see how well blood is flowing in your breasts. The test is also given when a certain change is felt in your breasts but it does not show up on a mammogram – which is another form of a breast exam.
Okay, so the breast ultrasound checks the insides of my breasts… but why do I need it?
If your doctor finds something unusual during your physical examination they could order a breast ultrasound for you. Some of these breast abnormalities include:
- A lump in your breast
- A tender or painful area in your breast
- Change of texture or appearance of the nipple or breast skin
- Unusual discharge from the nipple
A breast ultrasound can also be ordered by the doctor as a supplemental or supporting exam to a mammogram. Should your doctor recommend you do have one, it’s important to prepare for the procedure. How do you do that? By having an idea of what’s happening during a breast ultrasound.
The breast ultrasound process for beginners
Now that you know the purpose of breast ultrasound, it’s now time to go through the medical exam itself. From a bird’s eye view, the exam would take around 15 to 20 minutes. To give you an idea, here’s how the breast ultrasound process usually goes according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
1. Change costume and relax
Upon entering the Women’s Wellness Center and the ultrasound room, you will be asked to remove your top and bra and change into a gown. So before coming to the clinic or hospital, it would be better to dress comfortably so you wouldn’t struggle to remove them.
You will then be asked to lie back on a padded examining table. Take this time to relax and mentally prepare yourself for the exam.
2. Gel time
To allow the ultrasound machine to smoothly move around your breast, the technician will apply a conductive gel on your skin. This would help the ultrasound waves travel better in your skin. Don’t worry, the gel won’t harm your skin nor stain your clothes. But it will be cold.
3. Meet the transducer
In order to get pictures of the inside of your breast, the technician will use a wand called a transducer. This device sends and receives high-frequency sound waves to generate pictures of the inside of your breast.
These waves would bounce off the internal structures of your breast, which causes changes in their pitch and direction – this is being recorded by the transducer.
4. Hold your breath
To get clearer pictures of the insides of your breasts, you may be asked to hold your breath a few times by the technician. Don’t worry! This won’t take long as the technician just needs still photos for your radiologists.
5. Here comes your radiologist
In rare cases during the breast ultrasound process, the technician may usher in the on-call radiologist, or the specialist doctor when it comes to imaging. If this scenario happens, it probably means that the radiologists need to see the images on screen or may need to ask questions about your symptoms and examine your breasts.
But don’t panic! This often means that they just need to clarify something to help come up with a correct diagnosis.
6. And you’re done!
Yay! You’re finished with your breast ultrasound! The technician will wipe the gel off your skin. You can now change back to your regular clothes and wait for your results to come out.
A breast ultrasound is only one step in the process of checking the current health condition of the breasts. Regardless, it plays a very important role in providing an accurate diagnosis, thus it should not be downplayed nor skipped.
Common uses of the breast ultrasound
Now that you know the process of breast ultrasound, it’s time to know what it’s used for. Here are some of the reasons why this type of procedure is being done.
1. To determine the nature of breast abnormalities
As mentioned earlier, doctors can order breast ultrasounds if they find lumps or tenderness during the physical exam. A breast ultrasound can determine the cause of these abnormalities.
Ultrasounds can determine if these abnormalities are solid like a tumor or fluid-filled like a cyst.
2. A supplemental exam in breast cancer screening
Tested and proven, laboratory tests increase cancer survival. For example, a mammogram is the most accurate screening tool to determine breast cancer. However, there are cases that can’t detect all of the breast cancer in the body – as some breast lesions and abnormalities are almost invisible and very difficult to interpret on mammograms.
This is where the breast ultrasound comes in. It can serve as a supplement to the mammography results to help come up with a more accurate diagnosis.
3. An ultrasound-guided biopsy
Should the doctors find a suspicious abnormality in the breast, they could recommend an ultrasound-guided biopsy. Since this imaging procedure provides real-time images, doctors can use this to guide their biopsy procedures.
4. Check breast implants
Doctors can use a breast ultrasound as an early diagnostic tool to evaluate breast implants to ensure their safety and efficacy for breast augmentation and reconstruction. These devices are safe to use and will not result in complications. So don’t you worry about a thing!
A breast ultrasound sounds scary at first, but when you know how everything is done – you won’t be as stressed out during the exam. When going to the hospital for your breast ultrasound, here are some key factors to keep in mind.
- Come comfortable. For a smooth sailing experience in your breast ultrasound, come in comfortable clothing and mentally prepare yourself for the process. This way, your stress, and anxiety won’t affect the results.
- Learn how it’s done. To help ease the fear and anxiety of the procedure, you may study the entire breast ultrasound process so you could have an idea of how things go. Just look at the list above to guide you!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re still confused about everything that’s going on, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor! Surely, they are more than willing to answer them and guide you through the entire exam. They could help reduce your anxiety, too.
Whether it’s a stand-alone breast ultrasound or if it’s a part of your executive check-up, our radiologic technologist and radiologists can help guide you through the entire breast ultrasound process.
Keep your health in check and schedule an appointment today at The Hospital at Maayo.