Dense Breast Ultrasound – Helen Sandven, MD, on ABUS Breast Tissue Screening

Dense breast tissue puts women at greater risk for having undiagnosed breast cancer. 3D whole breast ultrasound, also known as ABUS, is recommended annually for women with dense breasts. Because younger women more often have dense breasts, younger women benefit from this screening tool.

Here’s what else to know about ABUS and how it works in a Q+A with Helen Sandven, MD.

How does ABUS work?

It is like radar, using sound waves to detect hidden breast cancer. The 15-minute test requires no prep, often can be done on the same day as a mammogram, does not emit radiation and is relatively inexpensive.

Does breast ultrasound replace mammograms?

No, breast ultrasound and mammography work together. With dense breasts, some things are found better using mammography, while others are better detected with breast ultrasound. We’ve come a long way with detection. 3D mammography is better than 2D for finding early cancer, and breast ultrasound is one step better for women with dense breasts.

How do women know they have dense breasts?

Mission has included breast density information on mammography reports for years. Look at your last report for details. While breast tissue comes in four densities, only two are considered dense: heterogeneously dense and extremely dense.

Where is it offered?

ABUS is offered in Asheville and Brevard, making it easier to be screened. This simple test is the first good choice we have for detecting early breast cancer in women with dense breasts. It’s proven to find cancer early, and we’re grateful to offer this to our patients with dense breasts.


Helen Sandven, MD, is a radiologist and Medical Director of Breast Imaging at Mission Health.

To schedule your exam, call the Transylvania Regional Hospital Women’s Imaging Center at 282-883-5161. To find out more about ABUS breast tissue screening, visit missionhealth.org/imaging. [1]