Are Breast Thermograms Accurate Enough to Use?

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Is it ethical to use thermograms as a screening tool for detecting breast cancer?
By Katherine Neubauer, ND, FABNO
Reference: Kontos M, Wilson R, Fentiman I. Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) of breast lesions: sensitivity and specificity of detection of primary breast cancers. Clin Radiol. 2011;66(6):536-539.

Participants

63 female patients with symptomatic breast mass(es) who presented to a diagnostic breast clinic
(Excerpt from Conclusion)

 

Thermography is FDA-approved for adjunctive breast imaging and may have applications for clarifying the significance of breast masses detected on mammogram or MRI. For example, a prospective clinical trial that followed an abnormal mammogram with DITI found that thermography had an 82% negative predictive value. 3 Given an abnormal mammogram followed by a normal thermogram, there was a 82% probability that the lesion was truly benign.

 

Thermograms may be useful for clarifying the significance of an abnormal mammogram or for adjunctive imaging of a highly suspicious palpated mass. However, the clinician needs to be prepared to translate the accuracy statistics for the patient and to carefully document informed consent in the event that the patient chooses to forego biopsy of a breast mass.

 

There are other applications that might be more appropriate for thermograms. These uses include the detection of precancerous dysplasia, the accurate assessment of long-term risk of developing breast cancer, and the evaluation of possible dysplasia developing in response to hormone replacement therapy.

 

References 1. Hitchcock CR, Hickok DF, Soucheray J, Moulton T, Baker RC. Thermography in mass screening for occult breast cancer. JAMA. 1968;204(6):419-422. 2. Feig SA, Shaber GS, Schwartz GF, et al. Thermography, mammography, and clinical examination in breast cancer screening. Review of 16,000 studies. Radiology. 1977;122:123-127. 3. Arora N, Martins D, Ruggerio D, et al. Effectiveness of a noninvasive digital infrared thermal imaging system in the detection of breast cancer. Am J Surg. 2008;196(4):523-526. 4. Kontos M, Wilson R, Fentiman I. Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) of breast lesions: sensitivity and specificity of detection of primary breast cancers. Clin Radiol. 2011;66(6):536-539.

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