Using Ultrasound to Evaluate Noncyclic Breast Pain

Ultrasound machines have many uses, and it is always great to learn of yet another way this technology can be used to advance medicine so that we have a better understanding of how to improve health care practices. Recently, one such advancement for using ultrasounds was found.

According to the expert panel at the American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria, it has been found that ultrasounds can be used to determine the cause of breast pains and show whether the pain is cyclical or non-focal, aka noncyclic (pain that is intermittent, involving a larger pinpoint area of the breast, shooting pain, pain involving both breasts or migratory pain).  The panel found that ultrasound imaging can be used to identify treatable causes in women under the age of 30 to identify the cause for the pain, though women over 30 can use ultrasound, along with mammography and digital breast tomosynthesis in initial examinations.

Breast pain or tenderness is experienced by up to 80% of women at some point in their lives. However, this pain is rarely associated with breast cancer but rather from causes such as idiopathic causes, simple cysts, trauma, infection, pregnancy or lactation. In fact, only 4% of women who report breast pain are determined to have cancer. But, that doesn’t make it less important to diagnose.

As part of the study, data was collected using both mammography as well as ultrasound to detect cancer. The study found that by using a digital mammogram for detection resulted in revealing cancer in 97% of non-dense breast exams, and 96% in dense breasts; ultrasounds determinations were 95% in non-dense and 87% for dense. This gave a combined accuracy of breast cancer detection of 97% accuracy.

The study also found that ultrasound was especially effective in identifying causes for concern for women with dense breasts. Typically, ultrasound is used to help target cause by imaging the specific location of the focal pain and is often not used unless the doctor needs to determine the specific cause of the pain. (Additionally, the use of ultrasound for breast pain can also be helpful in determining the cause of breast pain for men – regardless of their age –  so long as it is combined with traditional mammography.)

This recent study is another great reason why having an ultrasound machine for your practice is a must. At National Ultrasound, we have a wide range of ultrasound systems from which to choose and will be happy to help you determine which one will best suit your office’s needs. Give us a call today and talk to one of our ultrasound specialists.