Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

A Better Test for Breast Cancer?
Is breast thermography a reliable test for breast health? I have heard the radiation from mammograms is dangerous and that thermography is safer.
Answer (Published 10/22/2004)

Originally posted 5/4/2004

Breast thermography, also called infrared imaging, uses a special camera and computer analysis to measure and map "hot spots" in the breast that may or may not suggest cancer. Hot spots may indicate an area where new blood vessels are forming to feed a tumor. If, for example, thermography finds one in the left breast that isn't present in the right, the difference might suggest an abnormality - not necessarily cancer.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Women's Health - Women's health issues such as menopause, PMS and menstruation can often be effectively addressed through lifestyle, diet, and prudent nutritional supplementation. Learn more - get your free, personalized vitamin recommendation today, at Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor.

Breast thermography has been approved by the FDA as a safe test, but not as an effective screening or diagnostic test for early detection of breast cancer because it misses some cancers and has a high false positive rate. (That is, it identifies areas in the breast as malignant that are not.)

Despite thermography's poor track record, it is widely promoted on the Internet as a valuable tool that can find breast cancer earlier than any other available test. It is also described as more comfortable than mammography (true, since no breast contact is involved) and radiation-free (also true). These may be powerful selling points for some women, but the FDA, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Radiology warn that thermography is not a substitute for (or even a useful adjunct to) mammograms at this time.

Mammograms may not be the ideal method of screening for breast cancer - they can be uncomfortable and do expose women to radiation, which has a cumulative risk over time. Furthermore, there is widespread medical uncertainty about how often women should be screened (or even if they should be screened at all). Your best bet is to review your family history and breast cancer risk profile with your physician and make your decision about mammograms accordingly. I would not rely on breast thermography for the time being.

Andrew Weil, M.D.


Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here