Breast ultrasound

Key points about breast ultrasound

  • A breast ultrasound creates pictures of the inside of your breast using sound waves.
  • It can detect unusual breast tissue which may be difficult to detect using a mammogram.
  • A breast ultrasound is used to produce an image of the breast tissue and can support the results of other tests, such as a mammogram (anX-ray of your breast).
Woman lying on bench having breast ultrasound of left breast

A breast ultrasound can be used:

  • To see if a breast lump is a solid mass or fluid filled area.
  • If you have a lump on your breast that hasn't shown up on a mammogram.
  • To help locate the area of breast where a tissue sample (biopsy) will be taken.

The procedure

You don't need to do anything special to prepare for your ultrasound, other than to wear clothing that can be removed from the waist up. You can be given a gown to wear. The procedure is usually completed in 10-15 minutes but it may take longer.

A trained healthcare professional who is a specialist in ultrasound scanning (a sonographer) will do the procedure.

Image credit: Canva

For the procedure, you will need to lie on your back with your arm above your head. The sonographer will apply some gel over the area of your breast that will be scanned. They will pass small handheld unit back and forth over your breast. The gel makes it move easily. The unit sends sound waves through the skin and tissue. These sound waves waves bounce back like an echo, which a computer can make into a clear electronic picture of your breast.



Breast ultrasound is a very safe, painless procedure. It's the same technique used to scan babies in a mother's womb during pregnancy. It is safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.


The sonographer will discuss the results of the ultrasound with you. Sometimes further testing will be recommended if a solid lump or abnormal area of breast tissue is found.

Learn more

Breast cancer The Triple Test(external link)(external link) Breast Cancer Foundation, NZ
Tests & diagnosis(external link)(external link) Breast Cancer Foundation NZ
Your breast clinic appointment(external link)(external link) Breast cancer care, UK


Breast awareness – what you need to know(external link)(external link) Breast Cancer Foundation, NZ, 2019
Having more tests after a mammogram(external link)(external link) Breastscreen Aotearoa, 2018 Chinese (simplified)(external link)(external link) English(external link)(external link) Hindi(external link)(external link) Japanese(external link)(external link) Korean(external link)(external link) Thai(external link)(external link)

Related topics

Breast cancer – about | Mate pukupuku ūtaetae
Breast lumps and changes
BreastScreen Aotearoa


  1. Breast ultrasound(external link)(external link) Cancer Research UK, 2020

Information for healthcare providers

See our page Ultrasound for healthcare providers

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