By Liz McGehee

Mammograms have been the standard for breast cancer detection since 1976, which begs the question: Is it still the greatest tool we have at our disposal?

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), “More than 50% of women screened annually for 10 years in the United States will experience a false-positive result, and many of these women will have a biopsy. Overall, screening mammograms miss about 20% of breast cancers that are present at the time of screening.”  There is also the matter of radiation exposure, the unbearable waiting time for results and common discomfort that comes with the procedure.  

Using digital infrared imaging, breast thermography measures and maps heat on the breast’s surface, pinpointing areas with higher temperatures and increased blood flow that indicates early stage breast disease.  The procedure is non-

invasive, non-compressive and does not use radiation.  Thermographic imaging, which firefighters use to enter burning buildings, also help physicians detect arthritis, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.”

“Numerous studies have been published in the United States, England and France demonstrating that patients in the false positive thermographic group, those patients with positive thermograms and negative mammograms who were told the thermography was wrong, were determined by long term follow-up to have developed breast cancer in exactly the location thermography had demonstrated its positive finding 5-10 years earlier,” said Associate Professor of Surgery at Wayne State University and Surgical Oncologist, Dr. David Gorski back in 2010.  

Over a 12-year period, 800 peer-reviewed breast thermography studies showed this screening method to be 90% accurate.  However, it should be noted that the test has only been approved by the FDA for use in conjunction with mammography, rather than as a primary means of detection.  This isn’t too surprising considering it took 16 years after the invention of the mammogram for it to become the standard method of breast cancer detection. 

Over a 12-year period, 800 peer-reviewed breast thermography studies showed this screening method to be 90% accurate. 

Science is always slow to accept change, but thermography shows much of promise.  The only downside is that breast thermography isn’t covered by Medicare, but some health insurers will cover the costs, depending on your coverage.  Out of pocket, a scan including imaging, a written report and digital copy of the images usually costs less than $200. 

 Early detection is the best way to prevent and treat breast cancer so make sure you get screened annually.  

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