Breast ultrasound is a commonly used diagnostic tool for detecting breast cancer. But how accurate is it? The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors, including the size and location of the tumor, the skill and experience of the healthcare provider performing the ultrasound, and the presence of other breast abnormalities.
In general, breast ultrasound has been found to be highly accurate in detecting breast cancer when used in combination with other imaging tests, such as mammography. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that when breast ultrasound was used in conjunction with mammography, the sensitivity (ability to detect cancer) increased from 77% with mammography alone to 93% with mammography and ultrasound combined.
Breast ultrasound is particularly useful in detecting breast cancers in women with dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue can make it more difficult to detect abnormalities on a mammogram, and a breast ultrasound can provide additional information about the breast tissue. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology found that breast ultrasound had a sensitivity of 94.7% in women with dense breast tissue, compared to 63.6% in women with non-dense breast tissue.
However, it is important to note that breast ultrasound is not infallible. False positives (when an abnormality is detected that is not cancer) and false negatives (when a cancer is missed) can occur. According to the American College of Radiology, the false positive rate for breast ultrasound ranges from 2.9% to 4.2%. False negatives can occur when the tumor is small, deep within the breast tissue, or difficult to distinguish from surrounding tissue on the ultrasound.
The accuracy of breast ultrasound also depends on the skill and experience of the healthcare provider performing the test. A study published in the Journal of Breast Imaging found that the sensitivity of breast ultrasound varied widely depending on the experience level of the radiologist performing the test.
In conclusion, breast ultrasound is a highly accurate diagnostic tool for detecting breast cancer when used in combination with other imaging tests, such as mammography. It is particularly useful in women with dense breast tissue. However, false positives and false negatives can occur, and the accuracy of the test depends on the skill and experience of the healthcare provider performing it. If you have concerns about your breast health, it is important to discuss appropriate screening and diagnostic tests with your healthcare provider.