False Positive Mammograms

Thermography has been dismissed as unreliable by conventional physicians, claiming that the tool produces too many false positives.  Research since the 1970s has reported a false positive rate for thermography ranging from 6 to 13 percent.

Mammograms have a similar false positive rate.  How many times are women called back for “extra views” or had a biopsy that turned out to be benign (by the way, eight of ten biopsies are normal.) Those extra tests are a result of a false positive mammogram interpretation

Radiologists vary greatly in their ability to accurately interpret mammograms.  The most accurate interpretations are by physicians who have at least 25 years of experience, interpret 2,500 to 4,000 mammograms annually and have a practice focused on screening. However, the overall range of accuracy is frightening. 

In a study published in 2005 by U.S. Army Medical Research for its “Era of Hope Project,” radiologists (on average) accurately identified only 77 percent of cancers. For individual radiologists, the detection rate ranged from 29 percent to 97 percent. Think about that: Some physicians only found about 30 percent of tumors on a mammogram.  

Researchers further reported that while the average false positive rate for mammograms was 10%, the overall false positive reporting rate for individual physicians ranged from 1 percent to almost 30 percent.  A meta-analysis of 117 studies published April, 2007 in Annals of Internal Medicine  reported that false-positive results are 20% to 56% after 10 mammograms.

COMMENT: For thermogram nay-sayers, the facts speak for themselves. Thermography is at least as good as, and in many cases, provides more information than mammograms. In addition, it is painless and uses no radiation.

The bulk of the research involving breast thermography was conducted in the 1980s. State-of-the-art, ultra-sensitive infrared cameras and sophisticated computer software has evolved to detect, analyze, and produce high-resolution images.  The problems encountered with first generation infrared camera systems, such as improper detector sensitivity (low-band), thermal drift, calibration problems, analog interface, etc. have been solved for almost two decades.  Think about the difference between black and white televisions and the new plasma screen TVs. Consider the evolution from the first computers that were housed in rooms to the handheld gigabyte gadgets common today. Technology progresses in every area; tools used today for breast thermography are vastly improved over equipment used twenty years ago. The results showed its usefulness then; the new tools make it even more important now. 

It’s time to put this technology in its rightful place as an important tool for breast health. Using thermography will redefine the meaning of Early Detection.

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