Mammogram or Thermography: Which is Best?
As a breast imaging center, we often field questions about the different screenings that are available. Some screenings have been identified as alternatives to mammography. Thermography is an example. Here, we discuss this diagnostic test and compare it to mammogram technology.
What is Thermography?
Thermography is a screening achieved with digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI). Because it does involve radiation exposure, it has become a popular option as an alternative to mammography. Thermograms provide a pictorial measurement of temperature differences in surface breast tissue. For cancer to grow, the abnormal cells receive increased blood supply. This increase raises tissue temperature around the abnormal cells. The theory, then, is that finding increased temperature equates to finding cancer. Is it that simple, though? Studies indicate otherwise.
Unfortunately for proponents of thermography, there is little scientific evidence to support the temperature theory. In one study, researchers concluded that 78% of cancers were detected by mammography, while thermography detected 39%. Additionally, thermography had a high rate (approximately 30%) of false positives.
When comparing different types of breast imaging, it is important to recognize that there are different kinds of breast cancer. Thermography demonstrated a poor capacity to detect one particular type, ductal carcinoma in situ. This is the type of cancer that is localized in the milk ducts and has not spread to surrounding tissues. Ductal carcinoma in situ is the most treatable of all breast cancers. When detected early it can be surgically removed. According to studies, this type of breast cancer is best seen on mammogram imaging. Thermography is not supported by the FDA as a standalone breast cancer screening. It has been cleared by the FDA, but only as an adjunct to other breast imaging. The gold standard continues to be mammography.
At PURE Mammography in Lake Grove, NY, we offer high-quality 3D mammography at a cost that is comparable to standard 2D mammograms. Our role as a screening center is to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages when treatment can be more conservative and more successful. Based on current scientific data, that seems to be achievable using 3D mammography screenings.