October has become "all things about breast cancer, all the time" and while a lot of the information that makes headlines in October are helpful, informative, and potentially lifesaving, some of the information out there is decidedly "none of the above." In our last post we talked about the variety of breast cancer screening options available today, many of which are still experimental. With this post we focus on one technique in particular that we find problematic because it is highly touted on the internet without scientific data to support its use as an effective screening technique. This technique is called thermography, although it does go by other names, including infrared mammography and computerized thermal imaging.
We focus on thermography here because of a recent article in the Huffington Post touting its benefits. Dr. Christiane Northrup's article is well written and persuasive and judging by the comments legions of women are currently following her advice to give up their yearly mammograms in favor of thermography. But we sincerely hope than none of the fans of Positive Results: Making the Best Decisions When You're at High Risk for Breast or Ovarian Cancer are among those making what we consider a dangerous step away from mammography and breast MRI.
Why? Because thermography, although studied seriously since the 1970s, has not been proven sufficiently effective at finding cancer to replace either mammography or MRI. Dr. Northrup's article is not science, it is fluff and advertising for a technique that may actually cause harm. Fortunately, we were not the only ones who noticed Dr. Northrup's slick sounding article. A breast cancer surgeon and science blogger has blogged in detail about the falsity of virtually every assertion in Dr. Northrup's article in his blog The Huffington Post promotes breast cancer quackery again, which we urge you to read, both because it is entertaining and because it methodically reviews the hype and the science of thermography.