Thermograms vs. Mammograms: Which is the more effective, safe, and #1 option?
Mammograms are essentially X-ray images of the breast taken from a variety of angles to reveal any abnormalities or tumors that may be present in the breast tissue. Thermography, thermogram or thermal imaging detects heat changes on your skin as well as temperature differences within your body—both of which can indicate cancerous growths or other serious medical conditions.
It’s important for women who have dense breasts (meaning they contain large amounts of fat) to undergo annual mammograms because these scans detect abnormal masses earlier than thermographic exams. But both techniques are equally accurate at detecting malignancies, so it depends on personal preference what you prefer to do. If your doctor recommends either test regularly, follow her advice.
A recent study published by The Journal of Clinical Oncology found that thermography was just as good at spotting breast cancer as regular mammograms (1). In fact, the research showed that using both tests together provided even better results. This means if you choose to get tested with one method only, don’t worry about getting two separate sets of results; it’s likely all will come out positive anyway.
However, since most women have some sort of family history, it makes sense to consider getting tested every year for genetic disorders like BRCA mutations. These genes cause an increased risk for developing breast cancer, and testing is recommended for women ages 30 to 65. For those under age 40, a clinical exam is sufficient.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women with a strong family history take a baseline blood sample for analysis before beginning screening procedures. They recommend this, especially if they have a mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50. Women with no such relatives should still ask their doctors about the possibility of genetic predisposition.
So which test is safer?
Ultimately both methods are considered safe, but there are differences between them. Regular mammograms expose women to radiation, while thermography uses harmless infrared light. Because of the radiation exposure associated with mammograms, my vote is that thermograms are safer. Depending on who you ask, both methods are effective at finding the presence or absence of cancer. Since both techniques are equally effective at finding cancer, the choice comes down to how much control you want over your health care. Some people feel uncomfortable having strangers staring into their breasts. In contrast, others might not like the idea of exposing themselves to X-rays.
Pros and Cons of Thermography
According to the scientific study, “Medical applications of infrared thermography: A review ” published in Medical Care Research & Reviews, thermography offers several advantages over mammography (2). First, it’s non-invasive, meaning it doesn’t involve any needles or surgery. Moreover, it’s painless, unlike mammograms. And it has a low false alarm rate. That’s because the technique measures heat changes on the skin’s surface rather than looking directly inside the body.
While some people claim that thermography can see through clothing, the technology cannot penetrate thick layers of fabric. It also takes longer to perform than a mammogram, making it less convenient for busy women. Thermographic scans do not detect cancer at an early stage, which means they may miss tumors before symptoms appear. In addition, although it is more accurate than self-examining breasts, it still isn’t perfect. Mammography remains the most effective way to screen for breast cancer.
However, despite its limitations, thermography has one big advantage: It’s relatively inexpensive compared with other screening methods. According to the American Cancer Society, annual screenings cost about $50 per person, while thermography costs only $10 per scan. If you’re worried about your health but don’t want to undergo regular mammograms, then consider getting screened with thermography instead. However, keep in mind that this test alone won’t tell you if you have breast cancer.
Pros and Cons of Mammography
Some women find the whole mammogram process slightly embarrassing, but the benefits far outweigh any discomfort. As mentioned above, mammograms can spot breast cancer early on, which means you’ll receive treatment sooner. As per the study, “Screening for Breast Cancer With Mammography,” published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, women who received regular mammograms were able to detect breast cancers that would have otherwise been missed (3).
In addition, the research shows that mammograms are very accurate at detecting breast cancer. The cons of the test include its high cost and limited availability. Another con that is often not talked about or that is often dismissed is the radiation exposure every time a woman has to take a mammogram Most insurance companies cover only a small percentage of the procedure, and many women must pay out of pocket. Furthermore, only a handful of hospitals offer mammography services, so scheduling appointments can sometimes be difficult.
It is important to keep in mind that there are no risks associated with receiving a mammogram (unless your doctor tells you otherwise). You will not feel pain or pressure during the examination; however, it’s still best if you do not eat anything before getting one. Your doctor may recommend using an arm brace while undergoing this test, as well. If you experience any soreness after the exam, please let them know right away. In fact, some women prefer to get their first mammogram when they’re about ten years old since children don’t tend to develop breasts until puberty anyway.
Both thermograms and mammograms can effectively screen for breast cancer (4). However, the decision should ultimately be up to each woman. Ask yourself these questions: Do I want to go under the knife? Am I willing to submit to an X-ray? Will my doctor support my decision? Finally, consider the pros and cons of each screening method. Each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages, so carefully weigh the risks and benefits before deciding what works best for you. If you ask me, I would opt for thermography to avoid radiation exposure from mammography. I will write more about the excellent benefits of thermography in the near future.
- Rahbar, Habib, Janie M. Lee, and Christoph I. Lee. “Optimal screening in breast cancer survivors with dense breasts on mammography.” Journal of Clinical Oncology33 (2020): 3833-3840. https://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/JCO.20.01641
- Lahiri, B. B., et al. “Medical applications of infrared thermography: a review.” Infrared Physics & Technology4 (2012): 221-235. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1350449512000308
- Gøtzsche, Peter C., and Karsten Juhl Jørgensen. “Screening for breast cancer with mammography.” Cochrane database of systematic reviews6 (2013). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6464778/
- Omranipour, Ramesh, et al. “Comparison of the accuracy of thermography and mammography in the detection of breast cancer.” Breast Care 11.4 (2016): 260-264. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27721713