(BlackDoctor.org) — If you ask ten women, or men, if they are familiar with breast thermography, nine would say no. This is a surprising fact, considering that medical thermography has been in use since the early 1970’s and was approved by the FDA in 1982 for breast cancer detection and risk assessment, in addition to mammography. Thermography is not promoted as a replacement for mammography, but rather to inform women about their options regarding the prevention of breast cancer.
What is Breast Thermography?
Breast thermography is a diagnostic procedure that images the breasts to aid in the early detection of breast cancer. The procedure is both comfortable and safe using no radiation or compression. By carefully examining changes in the temperature and blood vessels of the breasts, signs of possible cancer or pre-cancerous cell growth may be detected up to 10 years prior to being discovered using any other procedure. This provides for the earliest detection of cancer possible. Because of breast thermography’s extreme sensitivity, these temperature variations and vascular changes may be among the earliest signs of breast cancer and/or a pre-cancerous state of the breast.
Is Breast Thermography an Alternative to Mammography?
Breast thermography is a complementary screening and detection procedure, which when added to a woman’s breast health examination substantially increases the sensitivity in detecting pathologies associated with the breast. As a unique physiological examination procedure, breast thermography is the only known test that can also serve as an early warning system by identifying women who have high-risk pre-cancerous infrared imaging markers. The procedure can also play a role in prognosis and as a method of assisting in monitoring the effects of treatment.
Mammography, like MRI and sonography, is an anatomical study; it looks at anatomical changes of the breast. It may take up to ten years for the tumor to grow to a sufficient size to be detectable by either a mammogram or a physical examination. By that time, the tumor has achieved more than 25 doublings of the malignant cell colony and may have already metastasized.
Thermography is a physiological study. The infrared camera detects the heat (infrared radiation), which is emitted by the breast without physical contact with it (no compression) and without sending any signal (no radiation). This is a receiving mode only. It shows small, unilateral temperature increases, which are caused by an increased blood supply to cancer cells.
Why Thermography is Not a Replacement for Mammography