Automated screening breast ultrasound (ABUS) is an easy, comfortable test developed specifically to help detect small cancers hidden in dense breast tissue. It’s used in addition to traditional mammograms, and is the only ultrasound technology approved by the Food and Drug Administration to detect breast cancer in women with dense breasts.
At Rush, your scan will be interpreted by highly trained breast imaging radiologists who are part of the comprehensive breast cancer team, which provides the most advanced, compassionate care to our patients.
Who Should Get ABUS?
All breasts are made of fat and tissue, but not all breasts are the same. Breasts that contain more tissue than fat are considered dense. Women with dense breasts are four to six times more likely to develop breast cancer.
About half of all women age 40 and older have dense breast tissue, but many of them aren’t aware of it because dense breasts don’t look or feel different. The only way to know if you have dense breasts is to have a mammogram. By law in Illinois, your provider must tell you if you have dense breasts so you can discuss options for additional screening.
If you have dense breasts, adding ABUS to your annual breast cancer screening increases your doctors' ability to find small, invasive breast cancers when they’re most curable. Rush diagnostic radiologists using mammography plus ABUS find twice as many cancers in women with dense breasts as they find through mammography alone.
How Is ABUS Different from Mammography?
Mammography is the gold standard for detecting small, early-stage breast cancers. But a mammogram can’t always detect cancer in dense breast tissue.
On a screening mammogram, fatty tissue looks dark, while dense breast tissue appears white. Cancer also looks white, so small cancers can easily hide in dense tissue. Up to one-third of all breast cancers in dense breasts aren’t visible on standard mammograms.
Unlike mammograms, which use a very low dose of radiation, ABUS uses sound waves to create 3D pictures of the breast tissue. This helps Rush breast imaging specialists easily see through dense tissue.
What to Expect With ABUS
If you know you have dense breasts, you can often schedule ABUS screening on the same day as your annual screening mammogram. Talk to your referring provider about ordering both a mammogram and ABUS if you have dense breasts.
During your ABUS exam, your technician will apply a layer of lotion to your breast before positioning an ultrasound scanner on your breast while you lie on your back. The exam is painless, noninvasive, and takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Your breast imaging specialist will review the ABUS images alongside your regular mammogram and will follow up with you about the results.
Rush Excellence in ABUS
- A personalized screening plan: When you come to Rush for a mammogram, you’ll receive a tailored breast cancer risk assessment to determine your lifetime risk for breast cancer, and a plan for your ongoing breast screening and follow-up care. If you have dense breasts, ABUS might be part of your regular screening plan.
- A highly experienced team: Our team of expert breast imaging specialists is one of the most experienced in the Chicago area. Between 85% and 90% of breast cancers found through screenings at Rush are found at the earliest stages, when they’re most treatable.
- Center of excellence: Rush breast imaging centers are designated as Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.
- Convenient screening locations: All Rush breast imaging centers are equipped with ABUS technology — in fact, Rush has the largest fleet of ABUS 2.0 systems in the nation — so you can get screened at the location nearest you.
- Collaborative care: Our breast imaging team is part of the breast cancer team at Rush, and works closely with medical oncologists, breast surgeons, advanced practice providers and others to create a personalized care plan for you if you’re diagnosed with breast cancer.