Experts in the Harmeling Imaging Center at Pella Regional Health Center, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are warning women that they should not substitute breast thermography for mammography to screen for breast cancer.
Mammography is a proven low-risk, low-dose x-ray used to identify breast cancer early. Women age 40 or older should have screening mammograms every year along with their annual physical. According to the American Cancer Society, mammography screening and increased early detection of breast cancers too small to be felt has decreased the breast cancer mortality rate since 1990.
“Regularly scheduled mammograms are recommended because it can often detect a lump long before it can be felt,” said Marilou Ozinga, medical imaging supervisor at Pella Regional. “With our mammography system, we get very high quality images in just a few minutes time, giving our patients the best possible exam available.”
Unlike mammography, in which an X-ray of the breast is taken, thermography produces an infrared image that shows the patterns of heat and blood flow on or near the surface of the body.
The FDA is unaware of any valid scientific evidence showing that thermography is effective in screening for breast cancer. The FDA has cleared thermography devices for use only as an additional diagnostic tool for breast cancer screening and diagnosis.
“Mammography is effective in breast cancer detection. Our fear at Pella Regional is that patients who substitute thermography for mammography may miss the chance to detect cancer at its earliest stage,” said Alison Smith, DO, radiologist at Pella Regional.