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Comparing mammography and thermography – making an informed decision

Breast cancer screening can identify breast cancer before a person notices any physical symptoms. Early detection can enable a person to undergo less invasive treatments with better outcomes.

Health authorities and doctors recommend regular screening with mammography for women, depending on their age and individual risk factors.

However, some facilities offer thermography as an assessment of breast tissue.

What is breast thermography?

What is thermography?

Thermography uses a type of infrared technology that detects and records temperature changes on the surface of the skin.

It can help assess breast tissue health & help prevent cancer. A thermal infrared camera takes a picture of the areas of different temperature in the breasts. The camera displays these patterns as a sort of heat map.

When a cancerous growth develops, there may be excessive formation of blood vessels and inflammation in the breast tissue. These show up on the infrared image as areas with a higher skin temperature.

Benefits

  • It is a noninvasive, noncontact procedure that does not involve compressing the breast.
  • It does not involve exposure to radiation, and people can use it safely over time.
  • It can detect vascular changes in breast tissue that may indicate the presence of breast cancer many years before other methods of screening can.
  • It can detect changes in breasts with dense tissue and implants.
  • Hormonal and menstrual changes do not affect the procedure or the results.
  • Can identify hormonal imbalance & how this is influencing the breast tissue

What is mammography?

A mammogram is a kind of X-ray. It involves compressing the breast between two metal plates and taking an X-ray image of the breast tissue.

The image can show if there are any unusual changes or masses in the breast tissue that may need further investigation.

It is the most common way of screening for breast cancer, and the information it provides can save lives. However, it can also have some disadvantages, which we will discuss in the sections below.

Benefits

Factors affecting who will benefit from regular mammograms include:

  • whether the person has a personal or family history of breast cancer
  • the presence of certain genetic factors, such as changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • their age
  • how often they undergo screening
  • how dense their breast tissue is, as this may affect the resulting image

Potential risks

Mammography can come with some risks. However, the recommendationsTrusted Source on when and how often a person should undergo screening take these risks into consideration.

Regular testing means repeated exposure to low levels of radiation, which may increase the risk of cancer slightly.

Mammography can also revealTrusted Source noncancerous changes, leading to false-positive results. This can lead to short term anxiety, further tests, and treatment, which may be unnecessary and costly.

Also, the results may be less accurate for women with dense breast tissue or breast implants. This is because dense breast tissue can appear white on the mammography image, which can mask the presence of tumors, as these also appear as white.

Low density fatty tissue, on the other hand, appears gray on the image, making it easier to see any changes.

Mammography can be uncomfortable, as it involves compressing the breasts. For this reason, it is best to avoid undergoing screening just before menstruation, when the breasts can be more tender than usual.

Stay informed, to help you make the best decisions for your breast health.

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