Digital infrared breast thermography is a painless, radiation free imaging modality that helps detect breast cancer. Approved in 1982 by the FDA as an adjunctive diagnostic screening tool, it’s benefits are far reaching and understandably beneficial as evidenced by the extensive research that has been conducted over the past 6 decades.
Just like fingerprints, every woman has a unique infrared map of each of her breasts. Similar to mammography, this study is utilized to capture early changes and targets prevention. However, physiology, hormonal changes as well as surface temperatures are being measured instead. Cancer cells need more nutrition and blood flow which causes elevated temperature in the affected area compared to surrounding breast tissue. These temperature variations are recorded by ultra-sensitive infrared cameras. Highly complex computers are used to produce high-resolution images of such variations.
The procedure for this test is quite simple. A medical digital infrared camera is utilized to take a series of pictures of a woman’s breast which are subsequently analyzed. A severity score is assigned to the study which guides further treatment. If results are negative, then a recommendation for follow up is made. If an abnormality is found, further testing, such as a mammogram or MRI may be recommended.
All women beginning at the age of 20 should have a breast thermogram. Women with dense breast tissue, a family history of breast cancer, fibrocystic breast changes as well as women who’ve had mastectomies will benefit as well. Thermography captures early signs of subtle changes in breast pathology due to the development of cancer, benign changes as well as fibrocystic breast disease. IT is very valuable in younger patients and can detect changes due to hormonal changes and dense breast tissue. Mammography is not as useful in this patient population.
Breast thermography offers women information that no other procedure can provide. However, it is not a replacement for or alternative to mammography or any other form of breast imaging. Breast thermography and mammography are complementary procedures, one test does not replace the other.