Don't replace mammography, group urges
Pretoria - Thermography should not be used by itself for breast cancer screening or diagnosis, the Radiological Society of South Africa (RSSA) warned on Friday.
"Breast thermography is not a substitute for mammography when it comes to early screening for breast cancer," the society said in a statement.
"To date, the [United States] FDA [Food and Drug Administration] has not approved a thermography device - also referred to as a telethermographic [infra-red] device - for use as a stand-alone to screen or diagnose breast cancer," it said.
Unlike mammography, in which an x-ray of the breast is taken, thermography produces an infra-red image that shows the patterns of heat and blood flow on or near the surface of the body.
Such devices are only cleared for use as an additional diagnostic tool. The warning comes after claims appeared on some providers' websites.
The FDA then issued a statement saying it was unaware of any valid scientific evidence showing that thermography, when used alone, was effective in screening for breast cancer.
The FDA has since issued formal letters to medical providers in the US to cease making claims that thermography devices, when used alone, are an effective means of detecting breast cancer.
"It is imperative that women are aware of this and are not falsely led to believe [this]. The mammogram is the first and most effective weapon in your artillery against breast cancer," said RSSA president Dr Clive Sperryn.
"Women should not rely solely on thermography for the screening or diagnosis of breast cancer, as this could provide them with a false sense of security.
"Paying attention to your body's cues and having regular medical check-ups to ensure early detection and treatment are pivotal in treating the disease."
Sperryn explained that ultrasound was used as an additional measure to assess abnormalities detected on mammography, or to give additional information in women who have dense breast tissue.
The incidence rates of breast cancer on women have increased by about 50% over the last 25 years, he said.