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06 Jan 2015

NHMRC Statement on Thermal Imaging for Early Breast Cancer Detection

Thermal imaging (or thermography) devices are often promoted as a breast cancer screening method. They use infrared imaging to detect changes in skin temperature. There is no clinical evidence that they are effective in detecting breast cancer and they are not recommended for breast cancer screening in Australia. Mammograms are the gold standard method for detecting breast cancer in Australia.

BCNA supports a draft position statement on thermography, released recently by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The NHMRC is Australia's peak national body that supports health and medical research, and provides Australians with reliable evidence-based information on health and medical issues.

The NHMRC draft position statement, Thermal Imaging for Early Breast Cancer Detection, describes what thermography is and why it is not a suitable breast cancer screening method.

In January 2011, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) banned thermography devices from being sold in Australia because there is no clinical evidence that they are effective at detecting cancer.

BCNA commends the NHMRC for informing consumers of the issues surrounding thermography. We provided some minor comments on the position statement, including that:

  • The statement should clarify that mammography (mammograms) are the evidence-based gold standard of care for detecting breast cancer
  • The explanation on the availability and use of thermography in Australia should be clarified
  • Consumers need to be directed to a variety of other good-quality information resources if they would like more information on thermography.

BCNA will continue to monitor the issue of non-evidence based breast imaging techniques, and provide updates on our website when they become available.

Acknowledgements

BCNA acknowledges and thanks BCNA Consumer Representatives Alexandrea Cannon, Sharon Scoble and Kerrie Griffin for their assistance in producing this submission.

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