Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Is thermography a good screening tool for breast cancer?

Q. When you talk about breast cancer screening, why don't you mention thermography? I've been using it for several years instead of mammography, which uses radiation.

A. The short answer is, we don't have good evidence that thermography is useful, and it definitely is not a substitute for mammography.

Thermography uses infrared cameras to detect temperature differences at the surface of the breast. Cancerous tissue generally has a higher temperature than normal tissue because of its richer blood supply and higher metabolic rate; scientists reasoned that infrared "hot spots" in the breast could signal the presence of cancer. However, you can also have hot spots with benign breast disease, such as mastitis.

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