Most women are familiar with the mammogram procedure, which is used to detect breast cancer and other problems in breast tissue. Another procedure that can be used to evaluate breast tissue is an ultrasound breast exam. Given that there are certain drawbacks to mammograms, including that they use a small amount of radiation and are somewhat uncomfortable, why isn’t an ultrasound used exclusively for breast assessment? There are a number of reasons.
Ultrasound Breast Exam vs. Mammogram – Which Is Better?
The answer to the question, “Which is better, a mammogram or an ultrasound breast exam?”, is based on many considerations. Generally speaking, mammograms are for screening purposes whereas ultrasounds are more often used for diagnosing conditions affecting breast tissue. Beyond that, there are pros and cons for each procedure.
Mammogram: Pros and Cons
|Effective for women who don’t have any symptoms of breast issues||Uses a small amount of radiation|
|Can detect microcalcifications, a common feature with tumors||Can cause discomfort from breast compression|
|Typically, can be completed more quickly than ultrasounds|
|Safe and effective|
Ultrasound: Pros and Cons
|Safe and effective||Can’t be used to image the entire breast at once|
|Uses sound waves rather than radiation||Produces more false positives|
|An important supplemental screening tool for women with dense breast tissue||Can’t produce an image of areas deep inside the breast|
|Better at distinguishing benign cysts from solid masses||Can’t detect microcalcifications|
|Doesn’t cause discomfort from breast compression|
Conclusion: Mammogram or Ultrasound
Both mammograms and breast ultrasounds have benefits and drawbacks. Ultimately, they should be thought of as procedures that complement one another.
Your doctor will recommend one or both for assessing the health of your breast tissue, depending upon your unique situation. These can include the results of an initial procedure, whether or not you’ve dense breast tissue and other considerations.