Wednesday, June 9, 2010

More on Breast Thermography

When my doctor suggested a breast thermogram he also mentioned that I should check with my insurance company to see if they covered it.  My insurance informed me that this screening test is considered experimental and unproven. I was surprised by this because from what I understand breast thermography has been approved by the FDA since 1983. So what's up?

Well, unfortunately it seems that thermography has become a victim of ethics and politics. According to Dr. William Cockburn, some less than ethical providers aren't adhering to testing protocol, or aren't qualified to interpret the thermograms.  These should always be read by doctors trained in thermography, just as doctors trained in radiology read mammograms. Politically, thermography is seen as competition with mammography. The American College of Clinical Thermography states that thermography  is a supplement to mammography, not a competitor. "In fact, thermography has the ability to identify patients at the highest risk and actually increase the effective usage of mammography."

I found several studies that underscore the effectiveness of thermography in detecting breast cancer. Research reported in the International Cancer Journal suggests that it shows considerable predictive value.  It's important to note that thermography and mammography do not diagnosis breast cancer.  This can only be done by pathology, but both screening tools do aid in detection.  Where thermography shines is in its ability to find abnormalities before they can be seen with mammography. This is especially important for young women who typically have denser breast tissue, which makes detection of irregularities more challenging with mammography. 

Another benefit of thermograms is their cost. Screening mammograms aren't routinely offered to women under the age of 40. Electing to monitor breast health with an annual screening thermogram is a more cost effective option than paying for a mammogram. With the recent advances in digital technology, current research in breast cancer screening is showing that "for breast cancer care, it has become possible to use thermography as a powerful adjunct and biomarker tool, together with mammography for diagnosis purposes." I think a thermogram is worth it.  What do you think?

By the way, if you're interested in finding a qualified thermography clinic in the US, this link lists them by state:



  1. It makes sense to me to continue to put pressure on the health care & insurance institutions to adopt new technology. Especially when it brings about the prospect of better prediction of potential disease which allows an individual to take preventative actions early on. it's like "Duh...we have a cost-effective option to identify potential issues BEFORE they become diseases that are extremely expensive (mentally, physically & financially) to irradicate. Why doesn't the insurance and medical community get behind this stuff and push it into the sacred 'standard pratice of care'?"

  2. I am an ultrasound tech in a radiology clinic. We often see malignant appearing masses in women who have never had any screening exam other than thermograms. The nurse who refers these patients to us, refers them once the patient feels a mass, not before, and when they've always had "normal" thermograms. By the time it looks cancerous on a mammogram and/or ultrasound and you can feel it, it's a worse cancer than if it had been found on a mammogram before you could feel it. In short, we've seen a lot of large cancers in women who have had normal thermograms.