It has come to our attention that some women may be mistakenly getting thermography instead of mammography. Mammography and thermography can be easy to confuse since they sound so alike. But make no mistake, the terms refer to entirely different tests and only mammography has been shown to be effective for breast cancer screening. As a result, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC) and Alberta’s Toward Optimized Practice (TOP) clinical practice guidelines recommend breast cancer screening with mammography, not thermography.
- Mammography: works by taking an x-ray of the breasts that can detect abnormal changes when they are still too small to be felt.Mammography is approved by Health Canada for use in breast cancer screening and is the only test proven to detect cancer earlier, when treatment is most likely to be successful. As a resident of Alberta, you may receive screening with mammography at no cost to you.
- Thermography: is based on the idea that tumours can be detected by the warmth caused by an increase in blood flow to the area. Thermography is NOT approved by Health Canada for use in breast cancer screening. This is because compared to mammography, thermography often fails to detect cancer even when it is present. Additionally, it can have more findings, requiring additional tests, when no cancer is actually present. As a result, the cost of the procedure is not covered by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan.
The Alberta Breast Cancer Screening Program strongly recommends the use of mammography for breast cancer screening and not the use of thermography.