Breast Thermography: Is it the Safest Screening Method for Breast Cancer?

Possibly one of the oldest forms of human cancers, breast cancer dates back to Egypt in 1600 BC.  During that time, breast cancer was untreatable and  cauterization was the only treatment performed to remove the diseased tissue.  This “treatment” went on for centuries until the 17th century, when doctors began to understand the circulatory system. They made a connection between breast cancer and lymph nodes in the arm pits, and for the first time, a more “humane” approach to treating breast cancer was born.


Jean Louis Petit Makes Medical History

Jean Luis Petit was the first surgeon to perform a mastectomy, which then became the only treatment provided to women who had breast cancer.  The radical mastectomy was revolutionized in America through the work of William Stewart Halstead, when he  performed the first mastectomy on American soil.  Again, this treatment remained the only conventional treatment of breast cancer until the 1970s when doctors began to understand metastases better and perceived cancer as both, systematic and localized. Armed with a clearer understanding of breast cancer and how it metastacized, American doctors began to discover better treatment options for treating women with breast cancer.  And more importantly,  life saving cancer screening devices were making their way in hospitals across America.


Introducing Breast Thermagraphy and Mammograms

In 1982, breast thermography was approved by the FDA for the adjunctive screening of breast cancer. Four years later, on July 8, 1986, Patrick Panetta and Jack Wennet received their patent for the first Universal Mammography Comprehension System, aka, mammograms.  Almost everyone knows what a mammogram is; yet, breast thermagraphy remains relatively unknown to most women.


So Why Haven’t You Heard of Breast Thermagraphy?

Doctors highly preferred the mammogram when screening for breast cancer primarily because when young women were given mammograms, they were less likely to get false postive results.  On the other hand, there were a very high amount of young women being diagnosed as false positive with breast thermography.  Needless to say, the large amount of false positives caused a major concern in the medical community.  As a result, mammograms became the most trusted method for detecting breast cancer within the conventional medical community.   But is it really more reliable than breast thermography? Let’s take a closer look at both exams.


The Mammogram

The life time risk for developing breast cancer 50 years ago was one in 20, and today it is one in eight. As a result of this huge increase in breast cancer diagnosis, most women today intimately know the many “ins and outs” of mammograms. They are recommended for women age 40 and above, and require her to place each nude breast, one at a time, between the two plates on the mammogram machine.


This procedure is often very uncomfortable to women. An ionizing high dose (1000 times higher than a chest x-ray) of radiation is administered. The radiologist gets an an x-ray image of the examined breast from above and from the side. The results are recorded on a computer or on x-ray film and are reviewed by the radiologist. After the exam is complete, the doctor will convey the results to the patient. Unfortunately, the results are not always accurate. Now the question becomes, are mammograms really saving the lives of women through early detection?


Research suggests that mortality from breast cancer has gone relatively unchanged for the last 40 years. Moreover, when women conducted self breast exams only (not combining it with mammograms), their rate of detecting a tumor was equal to the mammogram’s rate of accurate detection. In other words, just performing a self breast exam is as equally effective as having a mammogram in regards to detecting breast cancer early and saving your life. Research shows that if you screen 10,000 women age 50-70 with a mammogram, at best, only 26 of them will be saved. On the other hand, breast thermography boasts a rate of 87-96% accuracy. What is breast thermography and why is it so effective?


Breast Thermography

Breast Thermography is a clinical exam that uses infrared heat that emanates from the patient’s body. She is placed in a temperature controlled room (66°F to 70°F), and the thermographer blows cool air over her breasts. This cool air regulates the patient’s temperature so that she is at equilibrium with the room temperature. However, the pool of blood and blood vessels that the cancer cells create is not under autonomic control and is not affected by the cool air. This results in a hot spot because the pool of blood will clearly stand out. Once the patient’s body is cooled, usually 10-15 minutes, she will be asked to hold her arms up so that images can be captured. These images will include both breasts from the fronts, the sides, underneath, and from a 45 degree angle. After the procedure is complete, the patient will be asked to hold a cold gel pack for one minute, which produces a neuralgic response in the breast and cools them. This cooling only affects healthy breasts, but not cancer. If there is cancer, it will remain hot. A second set of images are taken of the breasts. In some offices the patient will get her results on the spot; while in other offices, she will leave and receive her results later. Unlike mammography, this procedure comes close to a 100% accuracy rate for early detection.


A breast thermography boasts an early cancer detection rate of 87-96%. It is non-invasive and does not expose women to additional radiation, which can actually cause cancer. Needless to say, this is why naturopathic doctors highly recommend it as a replacement to mammograms. According to Dr. Shawn Sieracki, a Traditional naturopath located in Lewisville, Texas, comparing breast thermography to mammography is like comparing apples to oranges. Dr. Sieracki says that mammograms find the tumor that is already present in the body, while on the other hand, breast thermography is based on physiology and will detect abnormal patterns in the breast tissue up to five year before it becomes a malignant tumor.


As noted above, breast thermagraphy was dismissed as ineffective because of the high rates of “false positives;” however, 5 to 10 years later, those young women who were diagnosed as false positives actually did develop breast cancer. Therefore, they were not “false positive”-they were in their very early stages of developing breast cancer and could have possibly reversed the condition before it developed into cancer. Conversely, the mammogram could not detect the developing tumor at such an early stage so those women who had a mammogram and were told that they had healthy breast, were actually in the early stages of developing breast cancer.


This is great news for women, especially those who have been shown to carry the BRCA1 gene. Doctors generally recommend a mastectomy for BRCA1 gene carriers. Now these women can partner with their naturopathic doctor to get frequent breast thermography exams done and immediately detect any physiological changes that might be taking place. Conversely, a frequently conducted mammogram screening might actually cause cancer due to the high level of radiation exposure.


So What’s the Right Answer?

Like everything else, deciding which option to use for your next annual breast exam is a personal choice. Women can continue to do self breast exams solely or in conjunction with a mammogram, but perhaps it’s best to use all three until you definitely know which exam is best for your particular situation. Consult with your physician to schedule a mammogram and to find a practitioner who specializes in breast thermography, you can visit