People often wonder if a thermogram is better than a mammogram, or if they can get a painless thermogram instead of a painful mammogram. Though both tests are used to detect breast cancer, each test has a different purpose.
A thermogram detects subtle heat changes that point to an area of evolving pathology in the breast. This may or may not be cancer. A mammogram is used to detect a mass that has already formed in the breast, often identified by a cluster of calcium specks. By the time a mammogram locates a tumor, it has been growing for at least 5 years.
Making the decision about getting a thermogram vs. a mammogram should be done with much discussion about risk factors, family history and lifestyle. For example, if you have had many years normal mammograms, have no family history and have a great lifestyle coupled with a normal thermogram and normal clinical exam, you may want to consider having a mammogram every three to four years and simply get an annual clinical exam and thermogram. However, if you have a very strong family history, drink alcohol and don’t take supplements, you may want to consider annual mammograms in addition to your annual exam and thermogram. If you have a very abnormal thermogram and you have not had a mammogram in several years, you must get a mammogram (and possibly an ultrasound) right away.
The most effective way to find breast cancer is to use all available tools as often as is necessary. For example, a clinical breast exam performed by highly trained fingers can identify 61% of tumors that turn out to be cancer. Adding a mammogram, increases the ability to find a cancer to 84%. Research done in Montreal in the mid-1990s demonstrated that adding a thermogram to breast exam and conventional mammogram increases the ability to find cancer early — do something about it — to 95%. Thermography not just an either/or test; it is a value-added test that both you and your doctor should learn more about.
Thermography: Redefining the Meaning of Early Detection.