FDA Rules Mammography Still Best Screening Tool

Breast thermography no substitute for mammography

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There has been a tremendous amount of confusion about breast cancer screening in recent years. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled on one controversy - thermography vs. mammography.

Breast thermography is not an effective substitute for mammography, according to the FDA. These infrared devices that shows patterns of heat and blood flow are not approved for primary cancer screening, the agency says.

"Mammograms are still your best breast cancer screening tool."

Mammography which take an x-ray of the breast has come under fire from some health care providers because of the radiation exposure and how the equipment compresses breast tissue.

The FDA has approved thermography as an additional diagnostic tool. That is, it can be used in addition to mammography for screening and diagnosing breast cancer. The agency says it is unaware of any reliable scientific evidence showing that thermography can be used alone to effectively screen for these cancers.

Mammography is still the best and most effective way to detect breast cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages, says Helen Barr, M.D., director of the Division of Mammography Quality and Radiation Programs in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

She adds that while there is plenty of solid evidence showing the effectiveness of mammography, there is no evidence that thermography can take its place.

The FDA has sent warning letters to healthcare providers that promote the "the inappropriate use of breast thermography." These warnings have instructed providers to cease making claims that thermography is effective when used alone.

Talk with your healthcare provider about when and how you should have regular breast cancer screenings.

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Review Date: 
June 2, 2011
Last Updated:
July 5, 2013