Is Breast Thermography Safe?
Yes, thermography is a safe, non-invasive, non-contact test with no radiation. Thermography simply creates a thermal image of your breasts by measuring the heat emitted naturally by the body. Thermography is approved by the FDA for adjunctive diagnostic screening for the detection of breast cancer and has been used in the United States and Europe for over 20 years.
Can Thermography Diagnose Breast Cancer?
Thermography identifies abnormal physiological changes in your breasts. Mammography, a type of x-ray, identifies certain structures in the breast that can potentially be cancer. With both mammography and thermography, definitive diagnosis can only be obtained through other procedures such as a biopsy.
Does Thermography Replace A Mammogram?
No - each test sees different breast health characteristics. A mammogram is an anatomical test (a breast x-ray) that looks for masses in the breast tissue, while a thermogram is a physiological test that looks for changes in blood vessel circulation within the breast. Breast thermography is a test that can help to monitor breast health and to assess the risk of developing breast cancer, as well as helping to identify any existing issues.
In NZ, the National Screening Unit currently recommends that women aged 45 and over have screening mammograms every two years. BreastScreen Aotearoa offers free mammograms for women in the 45 to 69 eligible age range. For more information click here.
I have breast implants - is thermography safe?
Yes, breast implants do not interfere with thermography. Breast thermography is painless and safe, using no radiation or compression. It can be used effectively and safely for all women including pregnant or nursing women, women with dense breast tissue and women with breast implants.
What does the procedure involve?
The scan, including the time to acclimatise to the temperature of the procedure room will take approximately 20 - 30 minutes. Once the client has acclimatised, a series of thermal images are taken by our IACT accredited female technician. These images are then assessed by a Board Certified Clinical Thermographer.
Do I need a referral from my doctor?
No, a referral is not necessary.
How often do I need a thermogram?
This depends on the results of your first thermogram. With no abnormal indications and depending on your age, we will generally recommend an annual thermogram. If your scan shows changes, depending on the level of risk, you will be asked to have a follow up appointment sooner.
How accurate is breast thermography?
Unfortunately, no tool is perfect and not all breast cancers are detected through breast thermography. Thermography can miss a breast cancer if it is very slow growing and therefore has a small or a non-existent heat signature, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), or when the heat distribution between the skin and the tumour is challenged as can be the case with tumours deep within fat tissue or diffuse cancers with oedema and skin thickening. For this reason we recommend that thermography is used as one of the tools in your breast health program, providing supplementary information to other methods of testing.
Breast thermography will often pick up changes before they can be seen through other testing. For this reason, sometimes thermography will show an abnormal result where other testing remains normal. It has been noted in many studies that a persistently abnormal thermogram in the absence of any other suspicious findings can be the first warning sign of an increased risk for breast cancer.
How accurate is a mammogram?
Up to 25% of invasive breast cancers are not detected in women in their 40s, and 10% of invasive breast cancers are not detected in women in their 50s. (National Screening Unit, www.nsu.govt.nz)
Do I need to undress?
At the beginning of your appointment you will be asked to disrobe from the waist up in order for the thermogram images to be taken. For this reason, it is a good idea to wear a skirt, trousers or shorts to your appointment.