Thermography no mammography alternative
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a statement that thermography is not an alternative to mammography, and local experts agree.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a statement that thermography is not an alternative to mammography. The warning comes after the FDA notified three providers to immediately stop making “false and misleading claims” about the device’s effectiveness as a method of screening for breast cancer.
“The FDA is not aware of any valid scientific data to show that thermographic devices, when used on their own, are an effective screening tool for any medical condition including the early detection of breast cancer or other breast disease,” according to an alert sent by MedWatch, the FDA’s safety information and adverse event reporting programme.
“The FDA is concerned that women will believe these misleading claims about thermography and not receive needed mammograms.”
In addition to patients and healthcare providers, the warning went out to cancer advocacy organisations and the National Association of Attorneys General. The FDA has approved thermography as an “additional diagnostic tool” for breast cancer screening and diagnosis, but not as a stand-alone approach to screening or testing.
The South African perspective
Professor Justus Apffelstaedt, Head of the Breast Clinic: Tygerberg Hospital. Associate Professor: University of Stellenbosch says that thermography is a just way of imaging temperature.
“Claims are being made that breast cancer generates “heat” and therefore is detectable by thermography. The attraction of thermography is that there is no radiation involved nor is there compression of the breasts. This makes thermography attractive in the eyes of laypersons but to anyone who understands the physics and biology involved in thermography on the one hand and cancer on the other hand, will quickly see the claims being made are bogus,” he said.
Apffelstaedt added that breast cancer grows very slowly, taking years to become apparent so such a slow growing disease will not generate any temperature differences of note, certainly not such that they can be detected on the surface of the breast.
“Breast cancers detected by screening mammography are often only millimetres in size and even if they were to be three degrees Centigrade hotter than the surrounding tissue, it would still be impossible to detect such a temperature change from the surface of the breast.
“Indeed, with the slow growth of breast cancerous tissue, the temperature difference is likely to be less than a thousandth of a degree and easily covered by normal physiologic changes in the breast. The same holds true for the detection of premalignant changes in the breast, another claim often made for thermography.
Consequently, after generating a lot of interest in the 1960’s and 1970’s, thermography has failed to show any use in rigorous scientific evaluation and has no place whatsoever in sound breast health management. It currently is only used by unscrupulous operators on gullible members of the public for personal gain.”
Read the full article HERE.