Thermography for Breast Cancer Screening

  • By:  Lynn Almloff

Thermography, also known as digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI), is a painless, non-invasive, state-of-the-art clinical imaging test conducted without any exposure to radiation.

Thermography converts infrared radiation emitted from the skin surface into electrical impulses that are visualized in color. The spectrum of colors indicate an increase or decrease in the amount of infrared radiation being emitted from the body surface. Medical thermography can graphically display and record the subjective feeling of pain by objectively displaying the changes in skin surface temperature that are produced by pain states. Medical thermography’s major clinical value is in its high sensitivity to pathology in the vascular, muscular, neural and skeletal systems and as such can contribute to a diagnosis by the clinician.

Breast thermography or digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) is a 15-minute non-invasive test of physiology that emits no radiation. It is a valuable procedure for alerting your doctor to changes that can indicate early stage breast disease. DITI can detect vascular and sympathetic nervous system changes in the breasts 5+ years before other detection methods. Cancer cells grow and multiply at a greater rate than normal healthy cells. In order for the cancer cells to grow at this rate, they need an increased blood supply. The thermogram detects the increased vascularization to a site early in the development of a tumor. It may take 5-8 years for a tumor to grow to a size that is detectable with other imaging methods.

This quick, easy test starts with your medical history being taken before you partially disrobe for the scanning to be performed. The first session provides the basis of your “thermal signature.” Each individual has her own unique thermal signature just as she has her own unique fingerprint. No two women will have identical baseline thermal signatures. A subsequent session, about three months later, assures that the thermal patterns are unchanged. These two initial thermograms—done three months apart—create your baseline breast thermogram. This baseline test is important to each individual because every woman has a unique thermal pattern. These tests form your stable thermal pattern and any changes can then be detected during your routine annual studies. All patient thermograms (breast images) are kept on record and form a baseline for all future routine evaluations.

All women can benefit from DITI breast screening. However, it is particularly appropriate for women in the 30s, 40s and 50s, whose denser breast tissue makes it difficult for mammography to be effective. DITI screening is a good option for women with fibrocystic breast disease for the same reason. Many women with breast implants are hesitant to have mammograms due to the compression of the implants. In thermal breast imaging there is no physical contact, which eliminates this concern for women with implants. It can be used on women of all ages who, for many reasons, are unable or unwilling to undergo routine mammography.

One third of all breast cancers occur in women below the age of 45. In this pre-menopausal age group, mammography is less accurate in picking up cancers because pre-menopausal women have denser breast tissue than post-menopausal women. Dense breast tissue is not an issue with thermography. Thermography is a FDA registered adjunct to mammography and can be used safely at any age.

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.

Lynn Almloff is a certified clinical thermographer and the owner of Virginia Thermography. For more information, visit www.virginiathermography.com or call 757-705-9968.

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