Mammography versus Ultrasound for Detecting Breast Cancer: Which One is Best?

By now, every woman understands the importance of having a mammogram to help detect the early onset of breast cancer, especially after the age of 45. Mammograms should be a part of every woman’s overall medical care, and should be conducted every year according to the American Cancer Society. By the age of 55, they can be cut down to every second year.

But in addition to mammograms, should ultrasounds also be a part of the breast cancer screening process? In fact, many wonder if ultrasounds should be conducted in place of mammograms. That’s because it is believed that ultrasounds are better able to detect any abnormalities in breast tissue.

Ultrasounds Are Used For Diagnostic Purposes, While Mammograms Are Used For Screening

Mammograms do not necessarily diagnose breast cancer. Instead, they are used for screening purposes to detect the presence of a cyst or mass in the breast. Should this occur, an appointment for an ultrasound will then be ordered in order to further identify if the tissue that was found in the mammogram is dense or not. If it is dense, this could point to cancer which will require follow up.

Ultrasounds conducted on breast tissue are good at distinguishing between a solid mass and a fluid-filled cyst in the breast. Ultrasounds do not image the entire breast at one time, and instead focus on suspicious areas detected by a mammogram. Ultimately, a high resolution ultrasound is used for a diagnostic check of specific areas that a mammogram has already discovered.

At the end of the day, mammograms and ultrasounds used together can be very effective at finding suspicious masses and diagnosing them as breast cancer. However, there are also other breast imaging technologies that can be used to detect the presence of this disease.

For instance, elastography and digital mammography can be opted for. In addition, optical mammography is on the horizon which does not require any compression on the breast, therefore making it more comfortable and less painful. Breast thermography can also work for some women, while for others who are at high risk, a breast MRI may be a good choice. As time passes, these technologies will continue to evolve.

The ideal way to screen for breast cancer is to first have the entire breast examined by a mammogram, and if there is anything suspicious discovered, an ultrasound will be able to check further into the dense masses.