What is Breast Thermography?
Recently, a number of patients have inquired about breast thermography as an alternative to mammography. This summary might be helpful to you.
Breast thermography is a non-invasive, painless test that involves no radiation. Because of these facts, it has generated a lot of interest. Despite these advantages however, mammography remains the gold standard to screen for the early signs of breast cancer.
The theory behind thermography is based on the fact that as cancer cells are growing and rapidly multiplying, blood flow is increased in that area, which causes skin temperature to increase. Thermography attempts to detect these subtle changes in skin temperature.Thermography is also a non-compressive test, and therefore does not squeeze or compress the breast as is the case with mammography.
It is important to remember that breast thermography is less effective at detecting small cancers or cancers deeper in the breast tissue. (http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/thermography)
There are numerous web sites suggesting that thermography should replace mammography as a screening tool and that this modality will find cancer at a far earlier stage. There is no evidence supporting this claim. Mammography is still the most effective screening method in detecting early stage breast malignancy.
Although FDA approved, thermography is only approved as an adjunct, or additional tool for detecting cancer. Regarding concerns about radiation exposure from a mammogram, evidence shows that the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.
The FDA is advising patients to continue to have regular mammograms according to screening guidelines and to discuss with their physicians other additional diagnostic tests such as breast ultrasound, Tomosynthesis (3-D mammography), and MRI.