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How Does Ultrasound Help Determine if a Lump Is A Concern?

Although they are usually harmless, finding a lump can be concerning. The most common types of lumps are cysts and tumours. A cyst is a small sac filled with air, fluid, or other material. A tumour is an unusual area of extra tissue. Both can be found in your skin, tissue, organs, and bones.

It’s important to determine what type of lump you have since cysts are mostly benign, while tumours can be either benign or malignant. Benign tumours tend to stay in one place, but malignant tumours can spread to other parts of your body.

Ultrasound imaging can help determine the composition of a lump, distinguishing between a cyst and a tumour. Ultrasound is an imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to see inside your body. It uses a transducer that sends out ultrasound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. The ultrasound transducer is placed on the skin, and the ultrasound waves move through the body to the organs and structures within. The sound waves bounce off the organs like an echo and return to the transducer.

The shape and intensity of the echoes depend on whether the area absorbs or transmits the sound waves. For example, most waves pass through a fluid-filled cyst and send back very few or faint echoes, which look black on the display screen. On the other hand, waves will bounce off a solid tumour, creating a pattern of echoes that the computer will interpret as a lighter-coloured image. Air and bone also reflect sound waves.

Most tumours are benign. Ultrasound can usually help differentiate between benign and malignant tumours based on shape, location, and a number of other sonographic characteristics. If the ultrasound is inconclusive, your doctor may request a follow-up ultrasound to monitor the tumour or a radiologist may recommend a biopsy.

A biopsy can be performed in cases where ultrasound cannot differentiate benign from malignant tumours. This involves the insertion of a needle into the tumour to take a small tissue sample, which is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Your doctor will review your images and the report from the radiologist and discuss the next steps with you, such as a treatment plan or the need for further diagnostic imaging or lab tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

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