Thermography, Mammography, Ultrasound – What’s The Difference?

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The following graph outlines the differences between mammography, medical infrared imaging (thermography), and ultrasound. Medical infrared imaging detects surface heat as a byproduct of biochemical reactions. As such, the test adds valuable physiologic information that cannot be obtained from any other imaging procedure. Thermography is designed to be used as an adjunct (an additional test) to a woman’s regular breast health care.

Mammography

Mammography

Mammogram

Uses X-rays to produce an image that is a shadow of dense structures.
Structural imaging. Ability to locate the area of suspicious tissue.
Early detection method.
Findings increase suspicion.
Cannot diagnose cancer.
Can detect tumors in the pre-invasive stage.
Average 80% Sensitivity (20% of cancers not detected), in women over age 50. Sensitivity decreases in women under age 50.
Hormone use decreases sensitivity.
Large, dense, and fibrocystic breasts cause reading difficulties.

Medical Infared Imaging

ThermoForCompare

Thermogram

Uses infrared sensors to detect heat and increased vascularity (angiogenesis) as the byproduct of biochemical reactions. The heat is compiled into an image for computerized analysis.
Functional imaging. Detects physiologic changes. Cannot locate the exact area of suspicion inside the breast.
Early detection method. Used as an adjunctive imaging test.
Findings increase suspicion.
Cannot diagnose cancer.
May provide the first signal that a problem is developing.
Average 90% Sensitivity (10% of cancers not detected) in all age groups.
Hormone use has no known effect on image quality.
Breast size has no effect on image quality.

Ultrasound

UltraSound

UltraSound

High frequency sound waves are bounced off the breast tissue and collected as an echo to produce an image.
Structural imaging. Ability to locate the area of suspicious tissue.
Lower spatial resolution (cannot see fine detail). Good at distinguishing solid masses from fluid filled cysts. Used as an adjunctive imaging test.
Findings increase suspicion.
Cannot diagnose cancer.
Ability to detect some cancers not detected by mammography.
Average 83% Sensitivity (17% of cancers not detected) in all age groups.
Hormone use has no known effect on image quality.
Breast size has no effect on image quality.

A biopsy is the only test that can determine if a suspected tissue area is cancerous.

Sources:
Index Medicus – ACS, NEJM, JNCI, J Breast, J Radiology, J Clin Ultrasound
Index Medicus – Cancer, AJOG, Thermology
Text – Atlas of Mammography: New Early Signs in Breast Cancer
Text – Biomedical Thermology

This article was compiled for Dr. David Jensen by Larry Heinrichs

 

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