How Much Is A Breast Ultrasound Without Insurance?

Without insurance, the estimated average cost of an ultrasound is $410, however, costs can vary from $100 to $1,000 depending on where on the body the scan is being performed, where you live, and the facility you go to. During pregnancy, ultrasounds can be used to track the development of the fetus or to diagnose a number of disorders.

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Ultrasound Prices Without Insurance

Depending on the state and location you are in, the price of an ultrasound without insurance can vary significantly.

In most places, an ultrasound might cost anywhere from $110 and $370. Finding a doctor’s office outside of the city may help you save money because costs there may be greater than in suburban locations.

Typical expenses:

  • Health insurance typically pays for a breast ultrasound when a doctor orders a breast ultrasound to diagnose a disease. However, many insurance companies do not cover it for routine screening. Patients with health insurance often pay a copay of $10 to $50 or more, or coinsurance of 10% to 50%, or more, as their out-of-pocket expenses.
  • According to NewChoiceHealth, the price of breast ultrasounds for patients without health insurance varies by provider and area, with a national average cost of $360.
  • A breast ultrasound at Pueblo Radiology Medical Group Services in California costs $350. A unilateral breast ultrasound costs $252 and a bilateral breast ultrasound costs $328 at Baptist Memorial Healthcare in Tennessee. A unilateral or bilateral breast ultrasound at Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Nebraska costs $406, not counting the radiologist’s fee. A radiologist might bill up to $100 for reading the photos.

What should be mentioned: Typically, the patient dons a gown after undressing up to the waist. A transducer, a portable instrument that emits sound waves, is used by a technologist to apply a transparent gel to the breast and produce an image of the breast tissue on a screen. Typically, the process lasts for around 30 minutes.

A radiologist will later examine the pictures. The ultrasound can assist medical professionals in learning more about mammography abnormalities and/or determining if a lump is a solid growth or a cyst filled with fluid, in which case more testing or treatment may not be required.
An overview of breast ultrasounds is provided by WebMD Women’s Health.

According to the women’s health website, depending on the results, the patient might require an additional ultrasound or imaging test, fine needle aspiration of a breast cyst, which typically costs $150 to $500, or a breast biopsy, which typically costs $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the type of biopsy.

A surgical biopsy would be more expensive than a needle biopsy, which would be more affordable. Additional information on breast biopsy is available from the Mayo Clinic.

  • Breast ultrasonography services are available at some clinics. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a locator for medical facilities that grant discounts depending on income.
  • Uninsured/cash-paying patients frequently receive savings at hospitals and imaging facilities of up to 30% or more. For instance, the California Washington Hospital Healthcare System provides a 35% discount. Additionally, Raleigh Radiology in North Carolina gives patients who pay in full at the time of service a 40% discount.
  • A general practitioner or specialist can refer you to a hospital or imaging facility if you’re looking to get a breast ultrasound. Alternatively, the American College of Radiology provides a zip code lookup for locations that are accredited by the ACR to perform breast ultrasounds.
  • A radiologist will normally be on staff at the hospital or imaging facility to interpret X-rays. The American Board of Radiology should have certified the radiologist.
  • A comparison of breast ultrasounds and other breast imaging techniques is provided by the University of Maryland Medical Center Breast Center.
  • The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a guide to making decisions about a breast biopsy that includes questions to ask the doctor before the procedure, in the event that a biopsy is advised following an ultrasound.

Opposition to breast cancer screening for middle-aged women is difficult to explain. Over 80% of the time, mammography detects cancers in the early stages. How can the procedure be made to be safer, more precise, and more effective?

For women with thick breasts, the ideal screening program should include ultrasonography. Invasive tumors that are otherwise difficult to detect in thick breasts and murky mammograms can be found using the sound-wave test. Insurance should pay for the treatment, and it should be performed by board-certified radiologists with expertise in breast imaging.

This particular topic is the subject of the most recent uproar around breast cancer screening. Some radiologists believe it would be unwise or impractical to advise all women with thick breasts to get an ultrasound to determine their cancer status and if they are cancer-free.

A renowned medical magazine published an opinion piece just last week on proposed legislation that would guarantee women have access to this information. The fight for women’s access to knowledge about their breasts and supporting studies is highlighted by the physician writers who also point out the need for “grassroots groups and laypeople.”

Breast ultrasound has a number of advantages over conventional breast cancer screening techniques. There is no radiation, to start. Zip. The sound-wave test is similar to an echocardiogram (to picture the heart) or a sonogram, both of which are common during pregnancy to assess the fetus’s developing limbs and beating heart. Ultrasound is generally considered to be safe (without a biopsy, see below). Additionally, it is affordable, especially given the state of radiology.

The low cost of ultrasound may contribute to the issue, which is why some radiologists oppose obligatory notification. For a bilateral breast ultrasound today, CMS pays somewhere between $108 and $200, including the cost of the doctor’s interpretation. Depending on where the procedure is performed, prices change. The average refund is $150. Using the same government service, a pair of breast MRIs with interpretation costs about $540.

Like other medical professionals, radiologists who write scholarly publications on breast imaging may be influenced by training quirks, the equipment their practices or hospitals happen to hold, personal skills, and anecdotal experiences.

Additionally, there is no escaping the business motivation, which raises the likelihood that some radiologists may purposefully or unintentionally “see” the comparative advantages of rival and more advanced technology like MRIs.

The work required to complete a screening ultrasound is not minimal. A qualified radiology technician should need at least 15 minutes to get photos from each breast, and a doctor will need more time to analyze everything. In my experience as a physician who has examined cells under a microscope, the longer you look, the more likely you are to accurately understand what’s happening. As an advocate, I want my doctors to take the time necessary to carefully review the images.

Therefore, in my opinion, the more money we pay radiologists to examine these photos, the better (up to a point).

$150 does not cover the full cost of the ultrasound equipment, office space, technician’s time, radiologist’s evaluation, computers, documentation, and delivering the results to other medical professionals and the patient. Nowhere near.

Why then are breast ultrasounds problematic?

The biggest issue with breast cancer screening in general is false positives. Let’s put aside the anxiety and angst that women are allegedly so prone to for the time being. It can be very stressful to wait three days for a test or to be called back for an ultrasound, both of which shouldn’t happen.

But that shouldn’t influence a woman’s decision to undergo a procedure that could be curative or shorten the amount of time she has to get therapy by decades.

Let’s concentrate on the true false positives, which occur when a doctor takes a biopsy after noticing a worrisome spot but finds no malignancy. Only 2.4% of breast biopsies in the largest trial on breast ultrasonography for cancer screening in women with thick breasts and average cancer risk were falsely positive (321 in 13,547 ultrasounds). That is a fairly respectable biopsy rate, in my opinion. Additionally, it shouldn’t be a significant concern given that the majority of breast biopsies are now performed in a radiologist’s office using core needles.

In that investigation, Dr. Thomas Kolb and colleagues discovered that ultrasound alone detected 25.5 percent (one in four) of malignancies in women with thick breasts who were at average risk for the disease. In the investigation, ultrasonography increased screening sensitivity from 47.6 percent by mammography alone to 76.1 percent among women with highly thick breasts (Bi-RADS category 4). The fact that more recent data show even greater capture rates of mammography and ultrasound in women, in the range of 90%, is comforting. However, those data only include women with a high risk of breast cancer.

Now, a radiologist or I might point out that the Kolb study was published in 2002, which is almost ancient history in the actual world of digital imaging, despite being well-analyzed. In a later trial, 3-D mammograms would be the proper comparison. However, clinical trial expenses mount. I question their use because it will be another 15 years before they are finished (preferably with survival data) for breast cancer screening.


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