FRIDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Thermography -- a breast cancer detection method touted by some as a substitute for mammography -- is an unreliable cancer screen, according to new research.
In a study of about 180 women, thermography missed about 50 percent of cancers and delivered too many false positives, said Dr. C.M. Guilfoyle, a researcher at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania.
The radiation-free screening method uses computer software to measure and compare thermal abnormalities in the breasts and create a breast "map" to look for signs of developing breast cancer. The thinking is that increased temperature is found in areas with increased blood flow, and that may indicate a tumor.
Researchers evaluated the technique, marketed as the No Touch Breast Scan, on the breasts of women undergoing biopsies after they had suspicious findings on other imaging exams.
"I think we are still trying to determine the role of thermography as a breast cancer screening tool," Guilfoyle said. The technology she used was often not able to tell the difference between malignant and benign lesions, she said.
Guilfoyle is expected to present the findings Friday at the American Society of Breast Surgeons' annual meeting in Phoenix.
The test, as its name suggests, involves no physical contact. It is available in the New York City area, and may expand to other locations soon, said Barbara Zimmerly, a company spokeswoman.
It costs about $150, and it is not covered by insurance at this time. "The test is 88 percent accurate, according to the latest study," Zimmerly said.
Guilfoyle, however, found less accuracy in her evaluation of women with abnormal radiologic findings between October 2009 and May 2011.
For the study, each woman had a thermography test before a tissue biopsy, and Guilfoyle compared the final tissue pathology results with the thermography r
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