Liver ultrasound

When a breast cancer has been diagnosed, some people have a liver ultrasound scan to stage the breast cancer.

Staging tells the doctor how big a cancer is and whether it has spread. Knowing the stage helps your doctor decide which treatment you need.

You usually have this if you have symptoms that could be due to the cancer spreading to the liver. The symptoms could be due to other medical conditions though.

You might also have a liver ultrasound scan if:

  • there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes under your arm (axilla)
  • you have a larger breast cancer, for example bigger than 5 cm

What is an ultrasound ?

Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the body.

They can show up changes, including abnormal growths. You might have one to diagnose a cancer or find out if it has spread.

The ultrasound scanner has a microphone that gives off sound waves. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body and a microphone picks them up. The microphone links to a computer that turns the sound waves into a picture.

You usually have them in the hospital x-ray department.

Preparing for your scan

Check your appointment letter for any instructions about how to prepare for your scan.

You might need to stop eating for 6 hours beforehand. Let the scan team know if this will be a problem for any reason, for example, if you are diabetic.

Take your medicines as normal unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

What to expect

When you arrive at the clinic you might need to take off your upper clothing and put on a hospital gown. You lie on a couch.

The person who does the scan is called a sonographer.

During the scan

The sonographer puts a cold lubricating gel over your tummy (abdomen). Then they put the handheld probe on your skin.

They move the probe over your skin. You might feel a little pressure at times. Tell them if it is uncomfortable.

Diagram of an abdominal ultrasound

What happens afterwards

You can eat and drink normally after the test. You can go straight home or back to work afterwards.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks at a follow up appointment. 

Waiting for test results can be a very worrying time. You might have contact details for a specialist nurse who you can contact for information if you need to. It can help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 for information and support. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

Possible risks

Ultrasound is a very safe procedure but your nurse will tell you who to contact if you have any problems after your test.

Last reviewed: 
24 Sep 2020
Next review due: 
24 Sep 2023
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