Thermography, also called thermal imaging, uses a special camera to measure the temperature of the skin on the breast’s surface. It is non-invasive test that involves no radiation.
Thermography is based on two ideas:
- Because cancer cells are growing and multiplying very fast, blood flow and metabolism are higher in a cancer tumor.
- As blood flow and metabolism increase, skin temperature goes up.
Thermography has been available for several decades, but there is no evidence to show that it’s a good screening tool to detect breast cancer early, when the cancer is most treatable.
On Oct. 27, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put out an update reminding people that thermography is NOT a substitute for a mammogram.
“Thermography has not been shown to be effective as a standalone test for either breast cancer screening or diagnosis in detecting early-stage breast cancer,” the update said. “In fact, the greatest danger from thermography is that those who opt for this method instead of mammography may miss the chance to detect cancer at its earliest stage.”
Researchers are developing and testing new versions of thermography that someday may improve the test’s accuracy and usefulness.