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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 Feb. 25, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a safety communication telling people that thermography is not a substitute for a mammogram.

“There is no valid scientific data to demonstrate that thermography devices, when used on their own or with another diagnostic test, are an effective screening tool for any medical condition including the early detection of breast cancer or other diseases and health conditions,” the FDA said.

“Mammography (taking X-ray pictures of the breasts) is the most effective breast cancer screening method and the only method proven to increase the chance of survival through earlier detection.”

Researchers are developing and testing new versions of thermography that someday may improve the test’s accuracy and usefulness.

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