The Thermography Myth By Renee Alwan Percell, MS, PA-C

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend women have annual screening mammograms starting at age 40 and continue screening through age 75. There are recommendations about further imaging such as breast MRI or sonogram that should be decided case by case depending on your medical history, risk factors and family history. A mammogram is a low dose X-Ray of the breast tissue. A cancerous mass in the breast tissue would appear white on the image. A mammogram is the gold standard for detection of breast cancer. It can often detect cancer before there are any symptoms, resulting in a better outcome for many.

Several women opt for an “alternative” testing method called Thermography. Women are drawn to thermography because there is no radiation exposure, no compression of your breasts, and no real risks associated with the test. Thermography produces an infrared image that shows the patterns of heat and blood flow on or near the surface of the body. It tracks blood flow which has been thought to be sufficient in interpreting precursors to breast cancer. Although thermography is safe, there isn’t any evidence to prove it’s effective. People had looked at thermography as an early detection tool, but there is NO data to support such claims. The FDA approved thermography as an adjunctive (to be used with mammography) tool in the assessment of breast masses in 1982. Since then, there have been several offices, health spas and mobile imaging units that falsely advertise that thermography is an effective stand-alone test that is safer than mammography in detecting breast cancer. The American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging DO NOT endorse thermography for detecting breast cancer. Recently the FDA sent out a warning against thermography for breast cancer detection. This was a result of several cases reported where women had breast cancer and treatment was delayed due to thermography.

At the Couri Center, we care about breast health and have a variety of options for patients to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Prevent is a personalized, proactive, evidence-based program that will help you understand your future health risks. We can also calculate your lifetime risk for developing breast cancer and give lifestyle modification guidance. These are tools that we offer and recommend you use in addition to your annual screening mammogram so that you can be your healthiest self. If you would like more information on the programs we offer, please call our office to make an appointment. Most importantly, get your mammograms every year!

Be well,

Renee Alwan Percell, MS PA-C