||Thermography measures the infrared radiation (heat)
which is constantly radiating (emitting) away from the surface of
the human skin. Skin as an organ breathes, exchanges gases with the
environment, cools us as well as keeps us warm by letting heat out
or keeping it in by controlling the amount of circulation, or blood
flow, in the skin. This automatic regulation is done without conscious
thought and is controlled by the autonomic nervous system via the
sympathetics. The whole process is called thermoregulation.
The procedure is based on the principle that chemical and blood
vessel activity in both pre-cancerous tissue and the area surrounding
a developing breast cancer is almost always higher than in the normal
breast. Since pre-cancerous and cancerous masses are highly metabolic
tissues, they need an abundant supply of nutrients to maintain their
growth. In order to do this they increase circulation to their cells
by sending out chemicals to keep existing blood vessels open, recruit
dormant vessels, and create new ones (neo-angiogenesis). This process
results in an increase in regional surface temperatures of the breast.
Abnormal thermographic scans of the breast clearly demonstrate
abnormal areas of heat. This gives the clinician an alert that something
might be wrong with physiology of the breast. It could be an infection,
inflammatory disease, trauma or cancer.
Thermography uses no painful breast compression, no radiation and
is non-invasive. It is an ideal tool for mass screening not only
for women over 40, but younger women as well. In our clinic, we
have found breast pathologies in women as young as 18 utilizing
thermal imaging equipment. To deny the efficacy of thermal imaging
of the breast as an adjunctive diagnostic procedure in the overall
management of the patient is a grave error.
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 possible
detection of cancer. 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
Breast thermography has been researched for over 30 years, and
over 800 peer-reviewed breast thermography studies exist in the
index-medicus. In this data base well over 250,000 women
have been included as study participants. Some of these studies
have followed patients up to 12 years. Breast thermography has an
average sensitivity and specificity of 90%.
Studies show that:
- An abnormal infrared image is the single-most important marker
of high risk for developing breast cancer.
- A persistent abnormal thermogram carries with it a 22 times
higher risk of future breast cancer.
- When thermography is added to a woman's regular breast health
checkup, a 61% increase in survival rate has been realized.
- Finally, when used as part of a multimodal approach (clinical
examination + mammography + thermography), 95% of early-stage
cancers will be detected.
Breast thermography is not a stand-alone tool in the screening
and diagnosis of breast cancer. It is adjunctive. We can not ignore
the tremendous role of thermography as an early risk indicator or
as a monitor of treatment. When a thermogram is positive, a closer
look at the patient's diet, exposure to environmental pollution,
toxins and lifestyle is in order. Clinical blood work in addition
to ultrasound and mammography is essential. When mammography and
blood work are negative or equivocal, thermographic monitoring on
a quarterly to semi-annual basis should be performed in those patients
with suspicious thermograms.
Changes in tumor angiogenesis can be evaluated and other procedures
can be ordered to aid in the earliest possible diagnosis. Thermography
is non-ionizing and safe and there is no reason to simply "wait
and see" any longer. It is at this stage that a major decision
must be made. We can no longer be passive but must become proactive
with our health. The "wait and see' just because a mammogram
is negative or equivocal is no longer acceptable. With a more universal
non-political approach, thermal imaging can become a valuable early
detection tool that is indispensable in patient's health care. Since
it has been determined that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer,
we must use every means possible to detect cancers when there is
the greatest chance for survival. Proper use of breast self-exams,
physician exams, thermography, and mammography together provide
the earliest detection system available to date. If treated in the
earliest stages, cure rates greater than 95% are possible.