Dear Editor:

I have a few comments with regards to your papers recent article Alternative approach to breast cancer screening (March 4th Pioneer) as reported by Brianne Massey and quoting a thermography company spokesperson as well as local naturopath Mike Baker.

One could easily mistake this for an info-mercial of the benefits of thermography on breast health rather than a news article investigating a new offering on the horizon for the health of our local population. When I say benefits, I should say, as-yet scientifically unproven benefits for the use of this technology for screening of breast tissue cancers, as well as its dubious claims for prevention of breast cancer.

Unfortunately, the space here does not allow for a full argument/discussion to dispute the claims of Thermography Clinic Inc. who are trying to sell their testing in a travelling roadshow to the valley. In short, there is no proven evidence for the claims that thermography is a useful screening tool, and, as such, there is not one medical association that promotes or advocates thermography for this use. One only needs to look at the websites for the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, or the American Cancer Society, to read unbiased views regarding this particular test.

Of course, any thermography business will be happy to suggest baseline testing at a cost of about $250/test (interpretation included), which is just the start of annual or semi-annual exams as recommended by the company, suggesting that regular imaging start in women as young as 30.

Thats a fair bit of money spent by the time you are 60, without any research-proven benefit, to say nothing of any further consultation fee to direct any further diagnosis or treatment, and that women still need the proven benefit of mammography as well, so there is no avoiding that bit of necessary radiation.

I am always amazed that people can be convinced that their own family doctor as well as highly trained consultant specialists, including oncologists and radiologists, would blithely disregard a technology, new or otherwise, that could somehow be so beneficial to the health of a population. So who are you to believe: a company making it their business to sell people a test, or your own physician, trained in evidence-based medicine, with a decade or more of university training and your best interests of health in mind?

As with so many things in life, some health issues can come down to a buyer beware proposition, especially when it involves alternative treatments and, in this case, testing, which is clearly outside of the conventional practice of medicine. Thermography may safely provide colourful, high tech-looking images, but at this juncture there needs to be large randomized trials if it is to be proven to do anything other than lighten your pocketbook.


Dr. J Hildes MD