Do you have a question you’ve been dying to ask, but didn’t know who to turn to? Well, now you do. The National Women’s Health Network has established a weekly Q & A column where you can ask questions on a variety of topics. Those topics include contraception, abortion, sexual health, menopause & menopause hormone therapy, osteoporosis, obesity, and some aspects of heart disease. Each week we will feature a new question. See this week’s question below.

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What we are able to provide:

  • A feminist perspective on current issues in women’s health
  • Evidence-based research on the risks and benefits of certain drugs and procedures
  • Information on available treatment options

What we are not able to provide:

  • Give medical advice
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  • Information on general health topics

Please note: Questions submitted will not be answered personally, and not all questions submitted will be answered. If your question is selected, you will be notified via email. Before you submit your question, search our website to see if you find the answer to your question. Your answer might be found in a fact sheet, newsletter article or on one of our advocacy pages. NWHN can provide you with accessible and accurate health information; however, we are not medically licensed professionals and thus cannot provide medical diagnostic or treatment advice.

 


Weekly Question – Are thermography and ultrasounds safe and beneficial alternatives for mammograms? How accurate are they and what information do they provide?

 

Despite claims that thermography and ultrasounds are acceptable alternatives to mammograms, neither has been proven to be as good as mammography for routine breast cancer screenings. According to the American Cancer society, mammograms are still the best screening test available for breast cancer.

Thermography is a radiation-free imaging technique that creates a picture based on the temperature differences in the tissue being examined. Cancerous areas tend to be warmer because they typically have a higher level of blood flow and metabolism, and in this way thermographic devices can detect breast cancer. While this claim is sometimes true, some cancerous cells do not give off additional heat, and some that do are often located too deep within the tissue to register in the thermography screening. These factors contribute to a high number of both false positive and false negative thermographic readings. According to the FDA, there is currently no support for thermography to be adopted as an alternative to traditional mammography, which is still the most accurate method of breast cancer detection. However, some individuals at a high risk for developing breast cancer may choose to use thermography in conjunction with mammography for maximum detection.

breast ultrasound can be used to determine whether a breast lump is solid or filled with fluid. However, like thermography, this method is not a good screening tool for breast cancer due to the increased likelihood of false positive and false negative results. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a breast ultrasound is not recommended as a stand-alone cancer screening method as is does not always detect early signs of cancer, such as microcalcifications (tiny calcium deposits). While an ultrasound does not replace the need for a mammogram, it can often be used in conjunction with a mammogram to further test abnormalities.

There are pros and cons to each screening method outlined above. When considering which option to use, your doctor can help you determine the best one for you based on your medical history. For more information on mammography screenings, read our fact sheet.

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