by Donna Marie Scippa
Thermography or Medical Infrared Imaging, is a painless, non-invasive and inexpensive breast scan approved by the Food and Drug Administration for women of any age. Research suggests that breast cancer survival rests upon the earliest possible detection. When discovered early, 95 percent cure rates are possible, making breast thermography an essential part of risk assessment and early detection.
Thermography is a physiologic test measuring heat levels in the tissue. Interpreting a thermogram requires a complex computerized system, which measures heat in the breast by analyzing images taken by a state-of-the-art medical infrared camera. All of us are heat generators and most of the heat we produce is normal. A thermogram detects abnormal heat in the breast tissue, (angiogenesis, or new blood vessel formation, necessary to sustain the growth of a tumor), which is one of the earliest signs that a breast cancer may be forming.
Thermography is an imaging procedure that uses no radiation, injections, extreme pressure or other invasive methods. Infrared markers of early stage cancers missed by other methods may be discovered using thermography. This is the beautiful thing about thermography—it is capable of picking up these early signs while giving 90 percent sensitivity and specificity.
A mammogram is an X-ray (radiation) and a structural test. It detects micro-calcifications and masses in breast tissue, which may or may not be benign. Unfortunately, cancer has already formed and been present in the breast for some time before detection by mammogram is possible. Christiane Northrup, M.D., Board Certified OB/GYN and author, a strong advocate of thermography, notes in a 2010 Huffington Post article, “I understand that mammography has been the gold standard for years. Doctors are the most familiar with this test and many believe that a mammogram is the best test for detecting breast cancer early. But it’s not. Studies show that a thermogram identifies precancerous or cancerous cells earlier.”
The inclusion of thermography in breast cancer awareness and prevention plans is essential. It helps differentiate high-risk women, detect changes in breast tissue early and may give women a significant chance of beating an aggressive and widespread disease. It has been determined that no one method of examination alone can serve all the needs of breast cancer detection. Thermography can help in this arena, especially given how many women have dense breast tissue, which lowers the sensitivity of mammography.
It is also important to note that if women begin receiving thermographic scans in their 20s, they could be given a significant opportunity to change the course of their lives. Breast cancers in younger women are generally more aggressive and have poorer survival rates. Breast thermography offers younger women a valuable imaging tool that they can add to their regular breast health check-ups. The importance of including thermography cannot be overemphasized. In this day and age we need to be as proactive as possible in order to finally stop breast cancer from being so prevalent and the cancer women fear the most. Breast thermography has developed into an important tool in the fight against breast cancer and is important to include in any breast health program.
Neck Back and Beyond, an integrated wellness center in Fairfax, is offering their Spring Thermography Clinic, May 4-7. Call 703-865-5690 or email NeckBackAndBeyond@gmail.com to set up an appointment. Or attend their special movie of the month: a compilation of clips and a review of current issues on woman’s health from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 26. For more information, visit NeckBackAndBeyond.com. See ad, page #.
Donna Marie Scippa has been a nurse practitioner in Women’s Health for more than 20 years based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is passionate about integrative therapies for Women’s Health and the value of Thermography as a breast health screening tool. For more information visit: BreastThermography.com, DrNorthrup.com (search breast Thermogram) or DrChristineHorner.com.