By: Mary Beth Gudewicz, CNTP, MNT
Mammogram, thermogram, ultrasound: which option to choose is a question we have been getting frequently here at The Healing Center. Choosing the right one for you can be difficult. So let’s break it down.
By definition a mammogram is a test that uses x-rays to produce an image that shows a shadow of dense structures. It pinpoints the location of any suspicious area within the breast tissue. This procedure involves compressing the breast in the x-ray machine and taking several pictures from different angles. Once the image is captured, the technician will look for any areas that have a greater density (the degree of compactness of a substance, in this case a potential tumor) that stands out against normal tissue.
A thermogram is a functional test that uses infrared sensors to detect heat and increased vascularity related to angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels). The procedure detects physiologic changes but cannot locate the exact suspicious area inside the breast. However, it can detect physiological changes many years ahead of other screening methods. It is non-invasive and can detect fast growing, aggressive tumors. A positive infrared image means the highest risk for the existence of or future development of breast cancer.
An ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves, which bounce off breast tissue. The “echo” will produce an image. It can locate areas of suspicious tissue. Although it cannot see fine detail, it can distinguish solid masses from fluid filled cysts. This test is prescribed if something suspicious is found during a mammography, thermography or physical examination.
Below is a table that outlines further information about each test.
[table caption=”” width=”” colwidth=”350|350|350|350″ colalign=”left|left|left|left”]
Cancer diagnoses,Cannot diagnose cancer,Cannot diagnose cancer,Cannot diagnose cancer
What captures image,Uses radiation,Uses infrared sensors,Uses high frequency sound
What it can detect,Can detect tumors in slow growing or pre-invasive stage,Can detect suspicious physiological changes many years prior to any other method of screening,Can detect tumors that are missed by mammography
Do hormones affect test?,Hormone use decreases sensitivity. Large dense and fibrocystic breasts can be difficult to read,Monthly hormonal changes can affect imaging but not to the point of abnormality,Monthly hormone fluctuations can influence the breast tissues
What can be seen,The upper portion of the breast including the Axillary region and tail of the breast cannot be visualized,All breast shapes conditions and areas are seen in the imaging,All areas of the breast including Axillary region can be seen
Specificity,Specificity: 75%,Specificity: 90%,Specificity: 66%
,False positive: 25%,False positive: 10%,False positive: 34%
,Biopsy: 9 out of 10 initiated by this procedure are negative,,
Average Sensitivity,Average Sensitivity: (women over 50) 80% – 20% of cancers missed,Average Sensitivity: 90% – 10% of cancers missed Note: Most are slow growing tumors with low metabolic rate,Average Sensitivity: 83% – 17% of cancers missed
,Average Sensitivity: (women under 50) 60% – 40% of cancers missed,,
Mostovoy, Alexander, H.D., D.H.M.S., BCCT. “What’s the Difference? Thermography, Mammography or Ultrasound?” Thermography Clinic Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2014. <http://www.thermographyclinic.com/what-s-the-difference>.
“Mammography, Thermography, Ultrasound.” Mammography, Thermography, Ultrasound. Pacific Chiropractor and Research Center, 2005. Web. 29 Aug. 2014. <http://www.breastthermography.com/mammography_thermography.htm>.
Tenpenny, Sherri, MD. “Mammograms vs. Thermograms.” HealthKeepers Magazine. HealthKeepers Magazine, 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 29 Aug. 2014. <http://www.healthkeepersmagazine.com/article.php?id=3>.
 Mostovoy, Alexander, H.D., D.H.M.S., BCCT. “What’s the Difference? Thermography, Mammography or Ultrasound?” Thermography Clinic Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2014. <http://www.thermographyclinic.com/what-s-the-difference>.