A hypoechoic lesion is an abnormal area that can be seen during an ultrasound examination because it is darker than the surrounding tissue. Such abnormalities can develop anywhere in the body and do not necessarily indicate cancer. Blood tests, biopsies, and further radiological studies may be required to determine the composition of a hypoechoic lesion, sometimes referred to simply as a lesion.
Detecting a Hypoechoic Lesion
During an ultrasound examination, a technician applies a handheld device known as a transducer to the area of the body requiring assessment. The transducer emits high frequency sound waves that are reflected back toward the device when they contact internal structures. A black and white image forms on a monitor, based on the intensity of the echoes. Radiologists call brighter images from highly reflective surfaces hyperechoic while areas that are less reflective appear as darkened regions and are said to be hypoechoic.
Hypoechoic lesions can occur in any part of the body and for a range of reasons. By looking at an ultrasound image, a specialist may be able to determine whether a lesion is a cyst or tumor, and if it is solid in nature or contains any fluid. The general appearance of a lesion does not necessarily indicate whether the area is benign or malignant, however.
Common Hypoechoic Lesions
- Breast Lesions: A hypoechoic breast lesion might be a common, benign tumor called a fibroadenoma, or a breast cyst. Health care providers might suspect cancer if the lesion does not appear normal or meets certain criteria, such as if it has dark shadowing on one end, contains calcified spots, or shows some other unusual, well-defined characteristic. Subsequent testing might include a needle biopsy which involves extracting cells using a needle and syringe.
- Liver Lesions: Hepatocellular adenomas, also known as liver cell adenomas, and hepatic hemangiomas are both types of benign tumors that could produce a hypoechoic lesion on an ultrasound. These tumors are usually removed, especially if they are causing discomfort, to avoid the risk that they might turn cancerous. Alcohol consumption, obesity, and diabetes are some common causes of fat deposits that appear as lesions on the liver; depending on the cause, it may be possible to reverse such deposits. Liver cancer may also appear hypoechoic; often, a computerized tomography (CT) scan is done to properly diagnose liver cancer.
- Prostate Lesions: Prostate cancer almost always appears as a hypoechoic lesion on an ultrasound. Health care providers might diagnose a malignant hypoechoic lesion using a blood test, a needle biopsy, or further imaging studies. Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections can lead to a condition known as prostatitis, which can also appear as a hypoechoic lesion.
- Thyroid Lesions: Most thyroid lesions are benign and are quite common. People suffering from an over- or under-active thyroid can develop thyroid swelling, commonly referred to as a goiter. A hypoechoic lesion in this area might only indicate a developing goiter or an infection. Autoimmune disorders can also affect the thyroid, resulting in a condition known as Hashimoto's disease. Thyroid cancer can be hypoechoic and is generally easily treated.
- Kidney Lesions: Hypoechoic lesions can also appear on the kidneys, and may indicate something as common as kidney stones or cysts. Both can cause abdominal pain and usually require treatment. Renal cell carcinoma, or kidney cancer, may also appear as a hypoechoic lesion and requires additional radiological testing to be properly diagnosed.