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Breast-Exam Clinic Makes Questionable Claims

Several clinics say thermography can detect cancer eight years before mammograms. The FDA says the claims are bogus.

Several clinics across the nation say a state-of-the-art medical device can detect breast cancer eight to 10 years before mammography.

Is it true?

The United States Food and Drug Administration says no, and a leading breast cancer organization calls the device unreliable.

"Thermography cannot distinguish between benign and cancerous [growths]. And ... it is not good at finding cancers deeper within the breast tissue," according to a report by Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Last year, the FDA issued a warning to consumers, state prosecutors, and cancer organizations about clinics promoting thermography -- which uses an infrared camera to map variations in skin temperature -- as a substitute for mammograms.

The FDA said it found no scientific evidence to support "misleading claims" that thermography can "detect pre-cancerous abnormalities and diagnose breast cancer long before mammography."

The FDA also sent cease-and-desist letters to several clinics and companies making such boasts.

The FDA, citing numerous health and cancer organizations, recommends mammograms as "still the most effective method of detecting breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages." The agency said it issued its warning about thermography because it is "concerned that women will believe these misleading claims about thermography and not receive needed mammograms."

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