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Breast Thermography is no Substitute for Mammography

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Breast thermography is being touted by some health care providers, on their websites, as an alternative to mammography and promoting the fact that there’s no radiation exposure and no painful compression of the breast with thermography.

The rationale behind using the device lies in the belief that breast cancers have increased metabolic activity and will result in higher temperatures compared with the rest of the breast, according to the Society for Breast Imaging, which does not support use of the device.

The FDA has firmly stated that thermography shouldn’t be used as a replacement screen for mammography. “Thermography, which creates an infrared image of body heat and blood flow near the surface of the breast, is not approved for screening or diagnosis of breast cancer, as there’s no evidence of its efficacy, the agency said. “Mammography is still the most effective screening method for detecting breast cancer in its early, most treatable stages,” said Helen Barr, MD, director of mammography quality for the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

“Women should not rely solely on thermography for the screening or diagnosis of breast cancer.” The FDA cleared the devices in 1982 as an adjunct to breast cancer diagnosis, but not as a first-line tool.

In separate statements, the American College of Radiology (AMR) and the Society for Breast Imaging (SBI) both emphasized their lack of support for breast screening using the technology. “We are pleased that the FDA has taken this step to clarify its view on thermography,” the ACR statement read.

SBI said they won’t even support the technology as an adjunct to breast screening, citing a lack of studies vouching for its efficacy. Until there is more encouraging data available,” the group said, “the SBI cannot support the use of thermography/infrared imaging of the breast.”

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