Breast thermography is a 15 minute non-invasive test of physiology. It is a valuable procedure for alerting your doctor to changes that can indicate early stage breast disease.
The benefit of breast thermography is that it offers the opportunity of earlier detection of breast disease than has been possible through breast self examination, doctor examination or mammography alone.
Thermography can detect the subtle physiologic changes that happen as pre-cursors to structural formations (structures such as tumors can take years to form). With early warnings of thermal abnormalities, medical thermography is the ultimate prevention tool.
Good thermal symmetry with no suspicious vascular patterns or significant thermal findings.
Early Stage Malignant Tumor
This is the specific area of a small DCIS. We can see the vascular feed and the discreet area of hypothermia that is displacing the surrounding hyperthermia.
Thermography is a painless, non invasive, state of the art clinical test without any exposure to radiation and is used as part of an early detection program which gives women of all ages the opportunity to increase their chances of detecting breast disease at an early stage. It is particularly useful for women under 50 where mammography is less effective.
Thermography's role in breast cancer and other breast disorders is to help in early detection and monitoring of abnormal physiology and the establishment of risk factors for the development or existence of cancer. When used with other procedures the best possible evaluation of breast health is made.
This test is designed to improve chances for detecting fast-growing, active tumors in the intervals between mammographic screenings or when mammography is not indicated by screening guidelines for women under 50 years of age.
All patients thermograms (breast images) are kept on record and form a baseline for all future routine evaluations.
With the new ultra-sensitive, high resolution digital infrared cameras available today a technology that has been developing over the past 20 years is now becoming more accessible.
Thermography as a physiologic test, demonstrates heat patterns that are strongly indicative of breast abnormality, the test can detect subtle changes in breast temperature that indicate a variety of breast diseases and abnormalities and once abnormal heat patterns are detected in the breast, follow-up procedures including structural imaging are necessary to rule out or properly diagnose cancer and a host of other breast diseases such as fibrocystic syndrome, Pagets disease, etc.
Canadian researchers recently found that infrared imaging of breast cancers could detect minute temperature variations related to blood flow and demonstrate abnormal patterns associated with the progression of tumors. These images or thermograms of the breast were positive for 83% of breast cancers compared to 61% for clinical breast examination alone and 84% for mammography.
By performing thermography years before conventional mammography, a selected patient population at risk can be monitored more carefully, and then by accurately utilizing mammography or ultrasound as soon as is possible to detect the actual lesion - (once it has grown large enough and dense enough to be seen by structural imaging), thermography can increase the patient’s treatment options and ultimately improve the outcome.
It is in this role that thermography provides its most practical benefit to the general public and to the medical profession. It is certainly an adjunct to the appropriate usage of ultrasound/sonography/mammography and not a competitor. In fact, thermography has the ability to identify patients at the highest risk and actually increase the effective usage of mammographic imaging procedures.
Until such time as a cure has been found for this terrible disease, progress must be made in the fields of early detection and risk evaluation coupled with sound clinical decision making.
Thermography, with its non-radiation, non-contact and low-cost basis, has been clearly demonstrated to be a valuable and safe early risk marker of breast pathology, and an excellent case management tool for the ongoing monitoring and treatment of breast disease when used under carefully controlled clinical protocols.
All women can benefit from breast thermography screening. However, it is especially appropriate for younger women (30 - 50) whose denser breast tissue makes it more difficult for mammography to be effective. Also for women of all ages who, for many reasons, are unable to undergo routine mammography. This test can provide a "clinical marker" to the doctor or mammographer that a specific area of the breast needs particularly close examination.
It takes years for a tumor to grow thus the earliest possible indication of abnormality is needed to allow for the earliest possible treatment and intervention. Thermography's role in monitoring breast health is to help in early detection and monitoring of abnormal physiology.
Breast cancers tend to grow significantly faster in younger women under 50.
Age and Average Tumor Doubling Times
Age 50 & Under 80 Days
50 - 70 157 Days
Over 70 188 Days
Source: Cancer 71:3547-3551, 1993
The faster a malignant tumor grows, the more infrared radiation it generates. For younger women in particular, results from thermography screening can lead to earlier detection and, ultimately, longer life.
You can increase your chances of detecting breast cancer in its earliest stages by understanding the need for, and participating in an early detection program.
Only about 20 percent of biopsied breast lumps are cancerous. And, if cancer is found early, there are choices for treatment. With prompt treatment, the outlook is good. In fact, most women treated for early breast cancer will be free from breast cancer for the rest of their lives.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
The results of this routine study led to the diagnosis of inflammatory carcinoma in the right breast. There were no clinical indications at this stage. (Thermography can show significant indicators several months before any of the clinical signs of inflammatory breast disease, skin discoloration, swelling and pain). Inflammatory breast disease cannot be detected by mammography and is most commonly seen in younger women, the prognosis is always poor. Early detection provides the best hope of survival.
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ
This 37 year old patient presented for routine thermographic breast screening, she was not in a high risk category and had no family history. No breast exams had been performed previously. The vascular asymmetry in the upper left breast and the local hypothermia at 11 O’clock was particularly suspicious and subsequent clinical investigation indicated a palpable mass at the position indicated. A biopsy was performed and a DCIS of 2 cm was diagnosed.
Male Breast Cancer
One per cent of breast cancers are found in men. The survival rate is much lower than in women as most breast cancers in men are only detected in advanced stages.
This tumor was palpable at the time of imaging, there is a well established vascular feed which has even caused increased blood flow at the left brachial plexus and there is also drainage toward the sternum that extends to below the left breast.
Even subtle effects of treatments, lifestyle & diet changes, etc., are likely to be seen with thermographic monitoring, making thermography an excellent objective way to see immediate effects of treatment and adjust if necessary.