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A 28-year-old member asked:

I want to know what is the difference between mammogram and ultrasound when it comes to breast cancer detection?

3 doctor answers16 doctors weighed in
Dr. Barry Rosen
General Surgery 35 years experience
"Apples and Oranges": A mammogram is an excellent (and inexpensive) screening test, meaning that it is designed to find cancers too small to detect by palpation. In contrast, ultrasounds are diagnostic tests, meaning they are helpful to determine whether an abnormality seen on a mammogram (or exam) is worthy of a biopsy. For example, one can only distinguish a cyst from a tumor by ultrasound.
Dr. Dmitry Rakita
Specializes in Radiology
Xrays vs ultrasound : Mammograms are images obtained by compressing the breast and exposing the breast tissue to x rays from several directions. Various findings on these X-ray images could be a sign of cancer. Ultrasound images are obtained by sending high frequency sound waves into (breast) tissue and capturing reflected sound waves back. These are then used to generate an image. Breast cancer can often be detected.
Dr. Thomas Foster
Radiology 38 years experience
Sometimes mammograms can detect cancer that ultrasound cannot and sometimes ultrasound can detect cancer that mannography cannot, especially if the breasts are mammographically "dense."
Feb 25, 2012
Dr. Karen Vaniver
Plastic Surgery 36 years experience
Mammograms are 90 % sensitive to pick up any irregularity, and are therefore a good screening test. Ultrasound is very specific and is used to determine that an irregularity is solid.
Apr 6, 2013
Dr. Karen Vaniver
Plastic Surgery 36 years experience
Mammograms are sensitive at picking up abnormalities and are, therefore, a good screening test. Ultrasound helps to determine if the abnormality is solid like cancer.
Apr 6, 2013
Dr. Andrew Turrisi
Radiation Oncology 48 years experience
X-ray mammograms: Rely on difference between tumor and tissue (not there in the 15% with inv lobular ca until quite large), requires compression (universally hated), and leads to u/s for biopsy direction, and sometimes mr. 3 tests: one relatively insensitive, one not reliably reproducible, 1 fraught with false positive.

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