Mammograms or Breast Thermography – Which is More Useful?


Photo: Fa Barboza on Unsplash

by Connie Hernandez, ND

How we evaluate thermal risk ratings

One of the main reasons we favor breast thermography over mammograms at Pacific Naturopathic is that the thermogram gives us parameters that we can monitor to better understand whether a treatment protocol is working.

Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND
Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND

For example, if on the initial thermogram we see temperature differentials between the breasts, we know there’s something going on in one breast that isn’t happening in the other. We can then evaluate the possible causes and develop an individualized three-month treatment protocol.

The treatment may be as simple as lymphatic breast massage, or adopting a detox diet, or it may be complex, involving anti-inflammatory botanicals, hormonal balancing, or other treatment forms.

After three months, we would expect to see improved thermal risk ratings. If we don’t, it will indicate that the protocol needs to be changed, or we need to perform further tests to help us better understand what is happening with the breast.

What is thermal imaging? – A Brief Review

Thermal breast imaging, commonly known as breast thermography, is a quick, safe, accurate, non-invasive test that can often detect changes that accompany breast disease, earlier than breast self-examination, doctor examination, or mammography.

The earliest stages of breast cancer are accompanied by changes in blood supply and breast temperature. These changes can often be seen on a thermal image, even before a visible tumor develops. Our thermal imaging system scans the breasts using an extremely sensitive thermal imaging camera that requires no radiation or breast compression.

The resulting images are evaluated by experienced technicians, using sophisticated technology to determine if the breasts appear to be at risk for disease.

What are the doctors looking for in a breast thermography photo?

Breast disease alters the breast temperature and surrounding blood supply, creating reliable signs that can be clearly seen on a thermal image. Your doctor is looking for the first signs of an existing or potential problem – because early recognition allows for early treatment.

What is the main difference between breast thermography and mammography?

Mammograms use radiation to distinguish dense anatomical structures consistent with the presence of a tumor.

Thermograms look at physiological changes that accompany breast disease. Thermograms don’t “see tumors.” They detect vascular activity and temperature that may suggest the presence of a tumor.

How often should women get breast thermography?

Photo: Wellcome Images,, Creative Commons

Initial thermal imaging photos establish a baseline from which we can monitor breast health. Comparing these images with later studies allows early detection of any changes.

We recommend annual thermography for women thirty and over.

If there are suspicious thermograms or other diagnostic readings, or when evaluating the effects of hormone replacement therapy or the efficacy of a treatment, or when there is any other cause for concern we may recommended repeat studies at three- to six-month intervals.

What does my thermography report tell me?

Your thermography report evaluates your risk for breast cancer. Depending on your individual risk level, you may be advised to follow a home program to reduce the risk, or to consult a specialist for an intensive, personalized risk-reduction and prevention program. Or you may be advised to undergo further diagnostics.

What can I learn from thermography?

Thermograms take the temperature of the breasts. The temperature differentials we see in your initial thermagram may be normal for you, or they may reveal underlying physiologic changes.

These changes may reflect a variety of underlying causes, such as infection, inflammation, neurology, hormonal imbalance, or cancer or pre-cancerous conditions. As your breast physiology returns to normal in response to treatment, repeat thermograms can track and confirm the changes.

Are there any limitations or disadvantages to breast thermography?

Breast thermography does not replace mammography. It may not detect slow-growing cancers, where vascular levels typically remain largely unchanged.

When breast exams, thermography, and mammography are used as complementary diagnostic techniques, the accuracy rates in detecting breast cancer increase dramatically.

What happens during a breast thermography exam?

The whole exam takes place behind the privacy of a screen. You will not be directly seen or touched by the clinician. The only discomfort from the exam may be chilliness, since the room must be kept at a specific, cool temperature for the pictures to be accurate. The clinician will instruct you to disrobe from the waist up. You will be asked to sit or stand with your hands on your hips (hands not touching your breasts) for about 15 minutes while your upper body is scanned.

Is breast thermography a recognized diagnostic tool?

Digital infrared thermal imaging has been recognized as a viable diagnostic tool by the FDA, the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs, the ACA Council on Diagnostic Imaging, the Congress of Neurosurgeons, and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.


Follow this link to learn more about breast thermography at Pacific Naturopathic.