Non-contact thermography, thermographic imaging or thermology is the field of thermography that derives diagnostic indications from infrared images of the human body. Thermology is sometimes referred to as medical infrared imaging or tele-thermology and utilizes thermographic cameras.
Thermography is used to determine areas of the body that have irregular blood flow. It is approved for the detection of breast cancer only as an adjunct modality. Telethermography systems are regulated as a medical device under 21 CFR 884.2980.
There are many clinical studies showing the effectiveness of Breast Thermography in detecting early stage abnormalities. A summary of some of those trials is available in this white paper from UE LifeSciences [pdf].
Thermography has been promoted by some alternative medicine practitioners as a means to diagnose cancer, although it is not effective for this purpose. Health Canada has issued "cease and desist" orders to clinics offering breast thermography as a cancer diagnostic device because thermography cameras are not licensed as a medical device in Canada, and because thermography is viewed as ineffective by medical experts. The FDA has issued a public warning notice stating that breast thermography is not an alternative to mammography and has ordered Joseph Mercola to stop making excessive claims for thermography.
Thermography is discouraged in North America by the American Cancer Society, radiologists and the FDA for early breast cancer detection. Advertisements in the United Kingdom have been found to be misleading.
The FDA has cleared thermography only as an adjunct method of screening. "Thermography devices have been cleared by the FDA for use as an adjunct, or additional, tool for detecting breast cancer." However, they stop short of recommending it, citing the lack of evidence of its effectiveness.
- Commissioner, Office of the. "Press Announcements - FDA issues warning letter to clinic illegally marketing unapproved thermography device, warns consumers to avoid using thermography devices to detect breast cancer". www.fda.gov. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
- Clinics ordered to stop 'useless' breast cancer tests, CBC News, Nov 27 2012
- FDA Safety Communication: Breast Cancer Screening - Thermography is Not an Alternative to Mammography, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration June 2, 2011
- Tsouderos, Trine (25 April 2012). "FDA warns doctor: Stop touting camera as disease screening tool". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "ASA Adjudication on Medical Thermal Imaging Ltd". Advertising Standards Authority. 2013-01-09. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- Commissioner, Office of the. "Consumer Updates - Thermogram No Substitute for Mammogram".