Sunday, December 20, 2009

Is Thermography A Valid Diagnostic Tool for Breast Cancer?

Thermography, which uses infrared imaging to detect changes in breast cancer tissue, can be effective in screening for breast cancer, according to research published in 2008 in the American Journal of Surgery. One huge benefit of this technique is that it is less painless than mammograms and does not emit radiation. In a randomized clinical trial, researchers used digital infrared imaging thermal imagining (DITI) on 92 patients for whom a breast biopsy was recommended. Thermography was 97 percent accurate. The researchers wrote:

DITI is painless, noninvasive,does not emit harmful radiation, has no patient risk, provides immediate results, and is relatively inexpensive.Compared to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—an adjunctive diagnostic tool for breast malignancy gaining more popularity—DITI is considerably more affordable to both patient and provider. MRI may cost $2,000 to the patient for each examination and $2 million to own the equipment, while DITI costs less than $200 for each exam and approximately $25,000 to own the equipment.

Researchers do not recommend thermography as a replacement for mammography, but suggest that some patients might benefit from this technique:

Patients who could potentially stand to benefit from this technology are those whose diagnosis of breast cancer can be difficult, including younger women, men, patients with dense breasts, or patients with surgically altered breasts (implants, breast reduction; provided nipples are intact for orientation and asymmetry analysis). Future studies using DITI for these individual groups can help to asses this potential.

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