Thermography has been in the news lately it is increasingly being used for breast cancer screening although it has been called into question by a recent CBC News investigation, which showed that some clinics offering thermography, which uses a heat-sensitive infrared camera, can detect indications of breast cancer much earlier than mammography.
Health Canada is advising Canadians and health care practitioners that no thermography (thermal imaging) machines have been approved to screen for breast cancer in Canada.
Health Canada is not aware of any clinical evidence that thermography can be used effectively as a screening technique for the early detection of breast cancer. As such, it may present a potential risk to women relying on the results.
Health Canada would also like to remind consumers that thermography machines are not a replacement for routine monitoring and screening for breast cancer. Patients who have relied on these types of machines for breast cancer screening should contact their physician for appropriate follow-up and testing.
The Department is following-up with the manufacturers of these devices to help ensure they are aware that it is illegal to advertise or sell these types of machines to screen for breast cancer in Canada. This could result in a stop sale of any unlicensed product. Health Canada is also working with the Canada Border Services Agency to stop any unlicensed devices from entering Canada.
Health Canada will be communicating with the provincial and territorial ministries of health to advise them that clinics falling under their responsibility should not be promoting or using these devices to screen for breast cancer.
There is more information on breast cancer, available through the Public Health Agency of Canada at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/cancer/breast_cancer-cancer_du_sein-eng.php. To confirm whether a device is licensed in Canada, please refer to the Medical Devices Active Licence Listing at www.mdall.ca.
Complaints involving thermography machines used in the screening of breast cancer can be reported to the Health Products and Food Branch Inspectorate by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-800-267-9675, or by writing to:
Health Products and Food Branch Inspectorate
Address Locator: 2003D
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9
Consumers requiring more information about this advisory can contact Health Canada’s public enquiries line at (613) 957-2991, or toll free at 1-866-225-0709.