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Ultrasound (Sonar) of the breast
A 7.5 megahertz linear array transducer is the apparatus used to obtain a real-time ultrasound of the breast. It is ideal to differentiate solid from cystic masses and is the best modality to detect breast cysts. Ultrasound, which works like a TV viewing the findings on a screen, is the investigation of choice for women less than thirty-five years of age and for pregnant and lactating women due to the density of the breast.
The appearance of a cyst is of a well defined, round, echo free, small ball, with posterior enhancement. A solid lump is full of echoes and demonstrates no posterior enhancement. These cysts are simply pockets of liquid or fluid, that cause breast lumps which may be quite painful.
Ultrasound is also an excellent investigation for assessing whether lymph nodes are benign or malignant, enabling the doctor to decide whether the patient should start with chemotherapy.
Sonar cannot detect calcification. Micro calcification, whether from a cancer or a benign lump, will not be picked up with ultrasound, however it can be detected by a mammogram.