Most women are familiar with ultrasounds for supplemental breast cancer screenings and pregnancy imaging, but what are the other occasions when a physician might order an ultrasound exam for women? Learn more about the life-saving capabilities these ultrasound exams provide.
How Ultrasounds Work
Ultrasounds use a combination of sound waves and computer technology to create internal images that doctors and patients seek. Ultrasounds are often used as a preliminary method of imaging. This means that when doctors suspect a problem and think that it is an area that the ultrasound will be able to view, they will use this method first because ultrasounds aren’t invasive or have side effects. Ultrasounds examine the internal organs, tissues and blood flow throughout the body, determining the blood flow through the heart, imaging breast tissue and guiding biopsy needles.
Almost any part of the body can undergo an ultrasound exam which makes it a faithful go-to for doctors.
These Are the Ultrasound Exams Many Women Receive
BREAST CARE: Ultrasound of the breast may be used for women who are at high risk for breast cancer or women who are pregnant and should not be exposed to x-rays used in a mammogram. Ultrasound of the breast can also be used to screen women who have dense breast tissue, meaning there are a lot of ducts, glands, fibrous tissue and less fat making it harder to find cancers with a mammogram.
HEART HEALTH: A major benefit that ultrasounds can provide for women is helping women determine their possibility of heart attack or stroke. Both of these conditions occur when the blood flow to the brain or heart is blocked. By using ultrasound technology, doctors can hear problems like weak valves, blockages, and murmurs. Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world and the highest killer of women around the world. The best way to combat this statistic, besides better health, diet, and exercise, is to have regularly scheduled check-ups with your primary care physician. As you get older, your doctor will likely recommend several kinds of tests to determine your cardiac health, so don’t forget to sign up for a cardiac ultrasound. The ability to see movement via ultrasound is particularly beneficial for those women concerned with their cardiac health as the movement of blood will be the biggest indicator of that problem.
PELVIC: In women, a pelvic ultrasound is most often performed to evaluate these parts of the body:
Ultrasound examinations can help diagnose symptoms experienced by women such as:
- pelvic pain
- abnormal vaginal bleeding
- other menstrual problems
Ultrasound exams also help identify:
- palpable masses such as ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids
- ovarian or uterine cancers
PREGNANCY: Ultrasounds are the best form of medical imaging for expectant mothers because ultrasounds are non-invasive and do not have the concern of radiation. Mothers can see their baby’s outline, hear their heartbeat and determine their child’s health.
TRANSVAGINAL: These exams go across or through the vagina (the genital canal in the female, extending from the uterus to the vulva).
A transvaginal ultrasound is usually performed to view the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) and the ovaries. Transvaginal ultrasound also evaluates the myometrium (muscular walls of the uterus). Sonohysterography allows for a more in-depth investigation of the uterine cavity. These exams are typically performed to detect:
- uterine anomalies
- uterine scars
- endometrial polyps
- cancer, especially in patients with abnormal uterine bleeding