Facts About Mammography & Thermography

Mammography

Thermography

A screening tool—does not specifically diagnose breast cancer, but screens for changes in local tissues due to various causes

A screening tool—does not specifically diagnose breast cancer, but screens for changes in local tissues due to various causes

Superior to clinical or self-examination for detecting early pathological changes

Superior to clinical or self-examination for detecting early pathological changes

Detects anatomical changes and can help identify the exact location of a lesion, which may or may not be cancerous;

Detects physiological changes that occur much earlier than anatomical changes, enabling detection of cancer or pre-cancer much earlier than mammography

If a woman's tumor at the particular time she has a mammogram is the same density as the surrounding breast tissue, it may not show up on the x-ray

Can detect breast tissue abnormalities even with very dense tissue, as occurs in younger women (under age 50) and in some older women as well

Reveals hidden malignant lesions in symptom-free women at an earlier stage and in smaller lesions, generally with a more favorable prognosis than is possible by self examination

Extremely accurate in detecting breast abnormalities, and in detecting cancer-related changes (e.g., increased blood vessel formation or neoangiogenesis) far sooner than other methods

Some breast changes, including lumps that can be felt, do not always show up on a mammogram

Not specific enough to determine whether the abnormality is cancer; also, dormant or slow-growing cancers may be missed

May help pick up the presence of early cancer in older women (over age 50) but has extremely limited usefulness in women under age 50 or those with dense breasts

Abnormal thermogram represents the strongest known risk factor for the future development of breast cancer, 10 times more significant than family history of the disease

An uncomfortable and often painful procedure

Pain-free and non-invasive—no physical contact is involved

Entails radiation exposure, which may increase breast cancer risk or breast tumor progression

Entails no harmful radiation exposure and therefore will not increase the risk of cancer

Currently not recommended for women under age 50 (who are most at risk for developing aggressive breast cancer) or women with breast implants

Annual thermograms recommended for women under 50, followed by ultrasound if the thermogram is abnormal

Recommended every other year for women over age 50

Recommended on alternate years for older women who are getting mammograms every other year

* Sources:  National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and International Academy of Clinical Thermology