Breast thermography uses infrared light waves to measure temperatures across the breasts. Different rates of chemical activity and blood flow can alter tissue temperatures; abnormalities such as breast tumors, may cause minute increases in temperature, or "hot spots."

Some research indicates that thermography may be a valuable screening tool to detect early-stage breast cancer; however, large scientific studies have not yet been done. Mammography is still considered the most reliable and cost-effective imaging test for the early detection of breast cancer. Thermography may be used as a complement to regular mammograms and breast exams by a doctor to monitor breast health.

Purpose of the Breast Thermography

  • To screen for precancerous changes of the breast and early-stage breast cancer
  • To detect the subtle changes in the body that can indicate a health concern such as cancer, infection or fibrocystic disease.

Who Performs It

A technician trained in thermography performs this test.

Special Concerns

This test has a significant rate of false-positives—meaning that it reveals hot spots when no problem exists—since heat fluctuations can result from a variety of physical changes unrelated to cancer (for example, skin lesions, cysts, or inflammation).

Before the Breast Thermography

  • Avoid sun exposure to your breasts for up to 10 days.
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee, smoking, and exercise for 3 to 4 hours before the procedure.
  • Do not bathe any later than 1 hour before the test, and do not apply any lotions or powders to your breasts prior to the exam.

What You Experience

  • You will enter a temperature-controlled imaging room, where you will remove your clothing above the waist and wait 5 to 10 minutes with your breasts exposed to room temperature. This stabilizes the temperature of your breasts and increases the accuracy of the test.
  • You will be instructed to hold your hands above your head or on your knees.
  • A special infrared camera takes photographs of your breasts from 3 or 4 angles.
  • The test takes less than 15 minutes.

Risks and Complications

  • None

After the Breast Thermography

  • You may be asked to wait while the films are developed to ensure they are readable.

Results

  • A physician will examine the thermographic images for evidence of hot spots, asymmetry between breasts, or other abnormalities.
  • If no abnormality is found, no further testing is necessary. Depending on your age and individual circumstances, your doctor may recommend periodic mammography and physical exams to monitor your breast health.
  • If a problem is identified, your doctor may recommend further evaluation with mammography or breast ultrasound.

Source:

The Johns Hopkins Consumer Guide to Medical Tests

Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Editor

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 11 Jan 2012

Last Modified: 04 Nov 2014