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What is Thermography?

The use of Digital Infrared Imaging (thermography) is based on the principle that metabolic activity and vascular circulation in both pre-cancerous tissue and the area surrounding a developing breast cancer is almost always higher than in normal breast tissue. In an ever-increasing need for nutrients, cancerous tumors increase circulation to their cells by holding open existing blood vessels, opening dormant vessels, and creating new ones. This process frequently results in an increase in regional surface temperatures of the breast. Thermography uses ultra-sensitive medical infrared cameras and sophisticated computers to detect, analyze, and produce high-resolution images of these temperature variations. Because of thermography’s extreme sensitivity, these temperature variations may be among the earliest signs of breast cancer and/or a pre-cancerous state of the breast (3,6,7,8,9).

Current methods used to detect suspicious signs of breast cancer depend primarily on the combination of both physical examination and mammography. While this approach has become the mainstay of early breast cancer detection, more is needed. Since the absolute prevention of breast cancer has not become a reality as of yet, efforts must be directed at detecting breast cancer at its earliest stage. As such, the addition of breast thermography to the frontline of early breast cancer detection brings a great deal of good news for women. There is no compression or radiation exposure to the breast tissue – images are simply obtained by using a heat-sensing camera.

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What Makes Thermography So Unique?

While mammography, ultrasound, MRI, and other structural imaging tools rely primarily on finding the physical tumor, s based on detecting the heat produced by increased blood vessel circulation and metabolic changes associated with a tumor’s genesis and growth. By detecting minute variations in normal blood vessel activity, infrared imaging may find thermal signs suggesting a pre-cancerous state of the breast or the presence an early tumor that is not yet large enough to be detected by physical examination, mammography, or other types of structural imaging (3,6,7,8,9).

Certain types of cancers may not be detected (approximately 20%) by mammography for various reasons (10), but some of these cancers may be discovered by thermography (3,6,7,8,9).

Difficulties in reading mammograms can occur in women who are on hormone replacement, nursing or have fibrocystic, large, dense, or enhanced breasts (6,8). These types of breast differences do not cause difficulties in reading thermography scans.

 

Thermography as a Risk Marker for Breast Cancer

Studies show that an abnormal infrared image is the single most important marker of high risk for developing breast cancer, 10 times more significant than a family history of the disease (5). Consequently, in patients with a persistent abnormal thermogram, the examination results become a marker of higher future cancer risk (4,5). Depending upon certain factors, re-examinations are performed at appropriate intervals to monitor the breasts. This allows a woman time to take a pro-active approach by working with us to improve her breast health. By maintaining close monitoring of her breast health with infrared imaging, self-breast exams, clinical examinations, mammography, and other tests, a woman has a much better chance of detecting cancer at its earliest stage and preventing invasive tumor growth. Just as unique as a fingerprint, each patient has a particular infrared map of their breasts. Any modification of this infrared map on serial imaging (images taken over months to years) may constitute an early sign of an abnormality; however, if a suspicious area is identified, this information is used to recommend further examinations and tests.

 

Thermography Facts

  • The FDA approved breast thermography as an adjunctive breast cancer screening procedure in 1982; however, it should be noted that thermography is not recommended as a replacement for regular mammograms.
  • Breast thermography has undergone extensive research since the late 1950's.
  • Over 800 peer-reviewed studies on breast thermography exist in the medical literature.
  • In this database, well over 300,000 women have been included as study participants.
  • The numbers of participants in many studies are very large -- 10K, 37K, 60K, 85K …
  • Some of these studies have followed patients up to 12 years.
  • Strict standardized interpretation protocols have been established for over 25 years.
  • Breast thermography has an average sensitivity and specificity of 90%.
  • Research has shown that breast thermography significantly augments the long-term survival rates of its recipients.
  • When used as part of a multimodal approach (clinical examination + mammography + thermography) 95% of early stage cancers will be detected
  • Thermography scans are read and interpreted by a board-certified radiologist who specializes in this technology.

 

Are you interested in thermography? Call our office to schedule a consultation today!

 

REFERENCES

  1. American Cancer Society – Breast Cancer Guidelines and Statistics, 2009-2010
  2. I. Nyirjesy, M.D. et al; Clinical Evaluation, Mammography and Thermography in the Diagnosis of Breast Carcinoma. Thermology, 1986; 1: 170-173.
  3. M. Gautherie, Ph.D.; Thermobiological Assessment of Benign and Malignant Breast Diseases. Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol., 1983; V 147, No. 8: 861-869.
  4. C. Gros, M.D., M. Gautherie, Ph.D.; Breast Thermography and Cancer Risk Prediction. Cancer, 1980; V 45, No. 1: 51-56.
  5. P. Haehnel, M.D., M. Gautherie, Ph.D. et al; Long-Term Assessment of Breast Cancer Risk by Thermal Imaging. In: Biomedical Thermology, 1980; 279-301.
  6. P. Gamigami, M.D.; Atlas of Mammography: New Early Signs in Breast Cancer. Blackwell Science, 1996.
  7. J. Keyserlingk, M.D.; Time to Reassess the Value of Infrared Breast Imaging? Oncology News Int., 1997; V 6, No. 9.
  8. P.Ahlgren, M.D., E. Yu, M.D., J. Keyserlingk, M.D.; Is it Time to Reassess the Value of Infrared Breast Imaging? Primary Care & Cancer (NCI), 1998; V 18, No. 2.
  9. N. Belliveau, M.D., J. Keyserlingk, M.D. et al ; Infrared Imaging of the Breast: Initial Reappraisal Using High-Resolution Digital Technology in 100 Successive Cases of Stage I and II Breast Cancer. Breast Journal, 1998; V 4, No. 4

This information was made available by the Pacific Chiropractor and Research Center (2005) (http://www.breastthermography.com/breast_thermography_mf.htm)

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