The healthy breast also was examined with thermography. Two models of the thermography scan were used. One focused on minimizing false negative results; the other focused on minimizing anxiety-provoking false positives.
Depending on which scan model was used, thermography missed about half of all cancers or had an unacceptably high number of false positives when compared to pathology reports on the abnormal breasts, according to the study.
The researchers also found that 47 percent of the normal breasts got a false positive reading on the thermography scan.
The role of thermography is still evolving, said Dr. Kimberly Lovett, attending physician at Southern California Permanente and an investigator at the University of California-San Diego Center for Patient Safety.
Lovett has written about the dangers of online ads that tout thermography as the sole method of breast cancer detection.
"I would tell women that thermography continues to be studied, and the technology will hopefully improve over time," she said. "However, at this time, thermography should absolutely not be used as an alternative to screening mammogram or as an alternative to breast biopsy in the presence of a positive mammogram."
If a woman has a suspicious lesion on a mammogram, the follow-up methods should be an ultrasound or biopsy, or both, Lovett said.
Mammography remains the gold standard for detecting breast cancer, Lovett said. The American Cancer Society agrees that thermography is not a substitute for mammography.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
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