As we are all aware, the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in North America is breast cancer, affecting one in every eight women. Despite treatment advances that have reduced mortality, this disease remains the second leading cause of cancer-induced death, being second to lung cancer.
Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI), also known simply as Thermography, is able to accurately differentiate between malignant and benign breast tumors. This is very important because early detection saves lives!
Rather than detecting anatomical changes in the breasts like mammography does, thermography is a non-invasive technology that is able to find breast cancer when it is actively growing and cellular abnormalities must consequently occur. Such abnormal cellular changes are what thermography detects. A portion of the heat that is released from the body is in the form of infrared radiation. Physiologic changes, which relate to cancer evolution such as increased blood flow and increased cellular activity contributes to the infrared image.
Similar to the ‘Pap’ smear, which is universally used to identify the abnormal cells that can lead to cervical cancer, the highly sophisticated camera and computerized system used in thermography is able to assist in differentiating benign tissue from malignant tissue due to the difference in their respective infrared signal. Thermography is a true breast cancer screening and early detection tool that all women need to be aware of and take advantage of TODAY.
As Dr. Christiane Northrup so eloquently writes in her latest edition of “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom”: Thermography is the missing link that holds the key to true prevention of breast cancer, not just early detection; although, it also does that very well. It allows a woman and her health care provider to determine the state of her breast health immediately, and then take steps to improve it long before a more serious condition develops. Improved methods to detect and diagnose breast cancer early, when it is most curable, are required if a significant impact on morbidity and mortality from breast cancer is to be made in this country.
So why haven’t you heard about thermography and why hasn’t your doctor told you about it?
There is no one answer to this question. But, the response goes something like this:
- This country is slowly coming around to the fact that there is not a one-size-fits all approach or treatment program for patients in the practice of medicine. Our medical paradigm normally shifts very slowly and this makes change quite difficult in the medical field. In 1982, the FDA approved breast thermography as an adjunctive diagnostic breast cancer screening procedure. In light of technological advances and maturation of the thermographic industry over the last two decades, the potential of thermography to provide an effective, non-invasive, and low risk adjunctive tool for earlier detection of breast cancer needs to be better recognized.
- The new guidelines recommended for breast cancer screening by the USPSTF studies in November 2009 has literally catapulted the medical community and patients alike into uncertainty regarding the last two decades when annual mammography has not just been endorsed but enforced! The most recent recommendation from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force stating that women under 50 should not undergo routine mammography has created a flurry of controversy. This new change in the breast cancer screening recommendation lays to rest the “brainwash” style message women have been receiving for two decades that they should have yearly screening starting at age 40. What are we to believe? Is it possible that we must consider that there has been an “oversell” so to speak, going on for the last twenty years with the routine use of mammography for screening breast cancer?
- Let’s face it: mammography has its limitations. A mammogram is a breast x-ray. An x-ray that by the way is equivalent to 1000 chest x-rays! An evolving breast cancer, like its surrounding breast tissue, appears white on the x-ray. This may make cancer difficult to detect in young women as well as in women with very dense breasts; in these cases a tumor may not cast a significant shadow until it is quite large.
For primarily these reasons, heavy dependence is placed on the mammogram’s calcification patterns as a clinical marker for potential cancer cell development within the breast tissue. Unfortunately, some cancers are so aggressive that they can spread quickly before they can be detected with a routine mammogram. Despite these limitations, mammography is still viewed as the gold standard for breast cancer screening and detection!
Certainly, our society has placed such importance on the mammogram, that it may well be hard for some women to trust the thermogram at first. For these women, the thermogram can be used in conjunction with their mammogram until they feel more comfortable. Remember, some cancers are so aggressive that they can spread quickly before they can be detected with a routine mammogram. Thermography supports and compliments mammography; it does not replace it. Although no single tool currently provides absolute predictability, a combination of a mammogram and thermography will help to improve both the sensitivity and specificity of cancer detection. Ideally, this enhanced identification can result in improved outcomes for those who have breast cancer, especially in its early stages, and the avoidance of unnecessary procedures for those who do not.
Why use thermography?
- SAFETY! There is no radiation involved with the technology. Why radiate breast tissue early (which is cancer promoting) if it’s less accurate than getting a thermogram?
- Certain circumstances often interfere with mammography accuracy. This often leads to more mammography, ultrasound, or tissue biopsy. Fibrocystic breasts as well as young and/or dense glandular tissue seriously interfere with the accuracy of mammography and do not interfere with thermography.
- Patients that are getting early mammography to detect breast cancer because she has a strong family history benefit more from early thermography.
- As a non-invasive technology, there is no contact with your body. One woman that came to The Cometa Wellness Center for her upper body thermogram explained that “because it was dark in the room and she (the thermographer) never touched my breasts, I felt that my privacy was being respected. I was proud and happy to have breasts, not terrified that they were unhealthy.”
Why should I get a total body thermogram?
Thermography can provide you with early diagnosis for such problems as cancer, neurological and vascular dysfunction, the presence and the extent of musculo-skeletal injury as well as inflammatory processes. Early detection of inflammation can prevent many disease conditions from actually occurring! Inflammation is a precursor to many diseases, such as cancer, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
What can thermography detect?
Thermography can help detect and assess arthritis, dental or sinus issues, immune dysfunction, digestive disorders, and vascular inflammation that can lead to heart disease or “hardening of the arteries” in places other than the heart (e.g. inflammation in the carotid arteries of the neck may be a precursor to stroke!)
What can you expect when you get a thermogram?
- You will complete some simple paperwork, while you sit in a temperature- controlled room to allow your body temperature to equilibrate.
- You’re positioned in front of a Thermal Imaging Camera, and the thermographer takes digital pictures. This takes approximately 15-60 minutes.
- Your pictures are sent to a certified physician called a Thermologist. Thermologists are trained to analyze and report the results of your personal thermogram.
- You’ll receive a report of the findings interpreted by the Thermologist within 1-2 weeks.
- Please see the preparations for your thermogram instructions below before arriving for your thermogram.