Frequently Asked Questions
What is Breast Thermography?
Modern Breast Thermography testing is a screening procedure that uses infrared technology (heat sensing) to screen for cancer and fibrocystic breast disease, and breast health. Infrared technology is used in most aspects of modern science including weather, space programs, military, espionage, and other applications.
In breast thermography we are looking for heat patterns in the breast that may indicate pathology. Tumor growth is a physiological process that creates increased vascular patterns that can be detected on a modern infrared camera. Thermography can establish overall breast health and is an excellent test for assessing fibrocystic breasts and response to treatment. Combining imaging resources is recommended.
Factors Affecting the Results of Breast Thermography
Not all tests are perfect or 100 percent accurate. It is important to combine testing for optimal outcome. The following will limit successful outcome measurements to a point”
- Patient’s age
- Ability to stay still in the proper positions
- Excessive use of bras
- Seat warmers, over exercising, caffeine use
- Medications usages including hormone pills and birth control
- Extra large breasts
The Promise of Breast Thermography
Thermology has become a valued and recognized tool in the scientific community. It is used in many disciplines of science and is growing as a viable choice for imaging the physiology of the human body. Thermography should be used by medical personnel in the fight against breast cancer and the promotion of breast health.
What Else Can Breast Thermography Detect?
Breast thermography can also pick up inflammation associated with developing tumors and inflammatory forms of breast cancer. Some authorities has postulated that nitric oxide is emitted from the developing cancer and can be picked up as a GLOW on thermal imaging.
It is also possible to see other abnormal vascular and lymphatic patterns in inverse grayscale imaging.
Young Woman at Risk and Dense Breasts
Full Body Thermography
What Makes Thermography Unique?
Thermography or Digital Infrared Imaging (DITI) helps in detecting heat produced by an increased level of blood vessel circulation (angioneogenesis) and metabolic changes linked with the genesis of a tumor. Benefits to Thermography include:
- Breast Thermography is safe and comfortable.
- No Radiation
- No Contact
- No Compression
- Easy to establish a baseline
- Able to use for women with dense breasts and implants
- Well Researched for more than 30 years (more than 800 peer-reviewed studies)
- It helps to identify around 95% of the early stage of cancer in a multi-modal approach
Types of Cameras Used in Thermography
Cameras used in the industry vary considerably. The higher the resolution the better to a point (approx. 640×480). It is important to make sure the Thermologist is using FDA Cleared systems.
Medical Thermal Cameras produce high-resolution, ultra-sensitive infrared images that can be translated in to heat measurements. Many changes in technology have occurred in the past 10 years. Always ask the age of the thermology technician's camera.
What is Angioneogenesis?
Angioneogenesis is the formation of new blood vessel that supply nutrients to a tumor and make it a living part of the body. This asymmetric increase in blood flow creates an increase in temperature that can be picked up by medical thermal cameras. Many times this blood supply increases over time as a tumor grows.
How Does Thermography Work?
Breast Thermography locates physiologically active tissue that may be hot due to angioneogenesis, the development of new blood vessels that feed tumors; or inflammation associated with the tumor process.
Cancer metabolism usually produces more heat compared to normal adjacent tissue and can be monitored for baseline comparison. Breast thermography proportionally detects the rise in skin temperature and the possible growth of cancer cells.
History of Thermography
Breast Thermography was discovered in Montreal, Canada in 1956 by Dr. Robert Lawson. Dr. Lawson published the first medical paper on breast thermography. Dr. Robert Lawson’s research found temperature differences of more than 2 degrees bilaterally correlated to cases of breast cancer in his patients.
1960’s: This news rapidly became popular throughout the world. In the 1960 infrared cameras were patented for this purpose and the first Barnes Thermograph was patented.
1970’s: In the 1970’s bras made of thermal material were placed on the breast to analyze these temperature difference in a radiology office. These liquid crystal bras and plates were used as a more affordable method of screening.
In 1972, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare declared that Breast Thermography was ‘Beyond Experimental.’ For more information.
1980’s: Thermography was FDA cleared as an adjunctive screening procedure for breast cancer in 1982.
Recent advancements in technology have allowed us to perform even more accurate exams. Studies have been performed on thermography when compared against other forms of testing. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Surgery, performed at New York Presbyterian Hospital Cornell showed a 97% sensitivity in discriminating cancer compared to biopsy. These results showed thermography to accurately identify 97% (58 of 60) of cancers when compared to mammography. Obesity and large breasts were a limiting factor.
Over 4000 articles were published on thermography and over 800 focused on breast thermography. All major medical institutions implemented the technology in the USA. Other countries adopted the use as well.
Dr. Piana and Sepper have published an article in the pan American Journal of Thermology called, Contemporary Evaluation of Thermal Breast Screening, that brings light to the history and current acceptance.
Is Thermography FDA Approved?
What is Medical Thermography?
Breast Thermography Process
This non-invasive physical test known as Thermography lasts for around 15 minutes. Unlike like mammography exams, it doesn’t lay any sort of stress on the breast. It uses digital infrared imaging to discover any symmetrical changes in the breast. Women with implants or those with a mastectomy fall outside of the “routine” analysis, but are able to be tested with some adaptations in evaluation procedures.
Testing is performed in the physician’s or technician’s office. The patient will be asked to fill out a breast history form. The examination may be in a privacy setup behind a curtain. The patient will be left for 10-15 minutes to let their body reach equilibrium with the room’s temperature. After 15 minutes the patient will be positioned in front of the camera (thermography system) to image the upper chest, underarms, and the breasts.
These images are captured in real time from the infrared imaging camera then stored. All images are stored for comparison of future images so that a baseline can be achieved. The images provide a clear view to vascular patterns, temperature differentials, and possible pathological conditions.
Once the images are captured they will be interpreted by a PACT Certified Clinical Thermologist., who will process and grade the images digitally. After analyzing the images, they are graded using a PACT standardized reading protocol.