Thermography for breast health
Jul 10, 2012 / 5:00 am
Over the next few weeks we will investigate the use of thermography for the diagnosis and monitoring of various medical conditions. Thermography is best known as a screening tool for breast cancer, but has several other applications we will discuss in the weeks to come. In this week’s article we will focus on the use of thermography as a screening tool for breast health.
What is Thermography?
Thermography is an imaging technique that uses infrared cameras to identify heat patterns on the surface of the body. All cells of the body give off a heat. Inflamed cells, pre-cancerous, and cancerous cells give off more heat and typically display this heat in an abnormal pattern. The pattern identified by the thermograph can indicate the health of the cells and whether or not future pathology may arise.
How Does Thermography Assess Breast Health?
Breast thermography is designed to identify the distribution of heat on the skin of the breast. This heat pattern reflects of the formation of blood vessels in the skin and breast tissue. Pre-cancerous and cancerous cells have unique blood vessel patterns and heat distribution patterns that thermography can identify.
Typically, years or even decades prior to cancer cell formation there will be changes in blood flow and blood vessel formation in the breast tissue. If this is identified before the cells become cancerous or even pre-cancerous dietary, lifestyle, and other changes can be made to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
What is the Evidence Supporting Thermography?
Thermography has been FDA approved as an adjunctive breast cancer screening tool since 1982. This means that it is approved to identify warning signs of an increased risk for cancer. Thermography is not intended to be a replacement for mammography but instead provides information that mammography is not designed to pick up.
Thermography has been researched for over 30 years and there are over 800 peer reviewed studies involving more than 300 000 women. Breast thermography has an average sensitivity and specificity rating of 90%. In fact, an abnormal breast thermography is more than 10 times more significant as an indicator for future breast cancer than family history of an immediate family member. When thermography is used in conjunction with clinical examination and mammography 95% of early stage cancers are detected.
Are There Side Effects?
Thermography has no known side effects. It does not utilize radiation or involve any pressure on the breast tissue.
What is the Procedure?
Thermography is a relatively simple and non-invasive screening tool that takes less than one hour to complete. The first 20 minutes of the appointment is designed for the body to acclimatize to the room which is set at 20 degrees Celsius. This prevents false positive patterns being identified. During the procedure the patient stands in front of the infrared camera, which scans the body and sends the images to the computer. At no time is there pressure, squeezing, or force applied to the breasts like in mammography. After the images are taken they are analyzed by the technician and the physician and a report is generated.
A treatment plan can be designed based on the results of the thermography if treatment is advisable.
For more information on breast health and thermography contact Dr. Barlow at the Kelowna Wellness Clinic at 250-448-5610 or via e-mail at email@example.com
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