Thermography or alternate screening method for dense breasts, family history?


Question from Colleen: What can you tell me about the effectiveness of thermography breast exams as an alternative to mammograms? Any new research on that? I'm 66 with a history of dense breast tissue and a sister with breast cancer at age 45. Thank you.
Answers - Nicholas Robert, M.D. In your situation, what is recommended is an annual digital mammogram which is more sensitive than the conventional film mammogram that was used for many years. In a patient with a family history of breast cancer, one should consider a breast MRI, which is more sensitive than a digital mammogram. You should also seek genetic counseling to determine your risk. This will help assist in obtaining a breast MRI. In addition, it is important to consider strategies to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer including what we have already discussed about alcohol intake, but also in terms of being close to one's ideal body mass, which can be achieved with a combination of diet and exercise. Unfortunately, thermography (which was a test that was being explored when I was a resident over 30 years ago) still is an area which, in my mind, is a study, and not to be considered a routine screening method for detecting breast cancer.
Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. Women who obtain screening mammography do not prevent the formation of a breast cancer. But through screening mammography and early detection, we can prevent death from breast cancer by diagnosing cancers in either a pre-invasive phase or very early phase. Mammography has clearly been shown through screening studies to decrease the death rate from breast cancer by approximately 40%. There are no such prospective randomized trials looking at thermography as a widespread screening tool. Therefore I do not recommend it in my patients as their method of screening. It is difficult at times to interpret the results; therefore it is not something that is routinely used in our clinical breast practice.

On Wednesday, June 24, 2009, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Updates from the ASCO Annual Meeting. Nick Robert, M.D. and Beth Baughman Dupree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answered your questions about the newest findings on risk, screening, treatment, and more.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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