THERMOGRAPHY vs. MAMMOGRAPHY & ULTRASOUND

Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging or Thermography is often "compared" to other modalities such as Mammography.  The fact is, Thermography cannot be compared to Mammography because they are looking at two completely different things in the body.  Thermography looks at the physiological parts of the body (the tissue) and Mammography looks at the anatomical parts of the body (skeletal or structure).  Here's a comparison chart to further explain:

Uses infrared sensors to detect heat and increased vascularity (angiogenesis) as the byproduct of biochemical reactions. The heat is compiled into an image for computerized analysis.

High frequency sound waves are bounced off the breast tissue and collected as an echo to produce an image.

Passes radiation through the breast to produce an image. Suspicious areas need to be dense enough to be seen.

Thermography

Ultrasound

Mammography

No radiation, non-invasive, harmless

No radiation, non-invasive, harmless

RADIATION USED

Can be used as often as indicated to trace a problem, observe the effectiveness of treatment, or monitor the health of the breast over time.

Very limited use due to radiation exposure and pain concerns​.


Functional imaging. Detects physiologic changes. Cannot pinpoint the exact area of suspicion inside the breast.

 

Structural imaging. Ability to locate the area of suspicious tissue.

Structural imaging. Ability to locate the area of suspicious tissue.

 

 

Non-contact. Nothing touches the breasts

Uses mild sound head contact

Compresses the breast.

Earliest method of breast cancer detection known.

Not a screening procedure. Used to investigate an area already detected by mammography, thermography, or physical examination. Low spatial resolution (cannot see fine detail). Good at distinguishing solid masses from fluid filled cysts

Findings increase suspicion. Cannot diagnose cancer

Findings increase suspicion. Cannot diagnose cancer

Findings increase suspicion. Cannot diagnose cancer.

Ability to detect some cancers missed by a Mammogram

Can detect tumors in the pre-invasive stage in mainly slow-growing cancers.

Can detect a pathologic state of the breast up to 10 years before a cancerous tumor is found by any other method

Has the ability to detect fast growing aggressive tumors. In 7 out of 10 women, thermography will be the first alarm that something is happening.

A positive infrared image represents the highest known risk factor for the existence of or future development of breast cancer – 10 times more significant than any family history of the disease.

Cannot detect exponentially fast growing tumors in the pre-invasive stage.

Average 90% Sensitivity (10% of cancers missed) in all age groups.  Of these missed cancers, the vast majority are slow growing and poorly invasive. Of the type of cancers to miss, this is highly preferable.  This makes thermography highly valuable as a prognostic indicator.

 

 

 

Average 83% Sensitivity (17% of cancers missed) in all age groups.

 

 

Average 80% Sensitivity (20% of cancers missed), in women over age 50. Sensitivity drops to 60% (40% of cancers missed) in women under age 50.

Hormone use - no effect

 

No known effect

Hormone use decreases sensitivity.

Average 90% Specificity (10% false-positives). Due to thermography’s ability to act as the earliest warning signal, further studies are needed to follow patients over a prolonged time period.

Average 66% Specificity (34% false -positives).

Average 75% Specificity (25% false -positives). 85% of all mammography initiated biopsies are negative.

Large, dense, and fibrocystic breastscause reading difficulties.

In most women, the medial upper triangle, peripheral areas next to the chest wall, and the inframammary

sulcus cannot be visualized

All areas visualized

 

Large, dense, and fibrocystic breasts  - no effect

Not applicable.  Due to the nature of infrared imaging, pre-cancerous and cancerous tumors as deep as the chest wall can be detected.

Large, dense, and fibrocystic breasts - no known effect

Can detect cancer earlier than

physical examination.

Sources:

Index Medicus – ACS, NEJM, JNCI, J Breast, J Radiology, J Clin Ultrasound

Index Medicus – Cancer, AJOG, Thermology

Text – Atlas of Mammography: New Early Signs in Breast Cancer

Text – Biomedical Thermology