By Donna Marie Scippa
Thermography or medical infrared imaging is a painless, noninvasive and inexpensive breast scan approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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 involves fascinating technology. It is a physiologic test measuring heat levels in the tissue. The room is cooled to 61 degrees to normalize skin surface temperature and the patient acclimates over a ten-minute period. This ensures a uniform test. 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.
Humans are heat generators and most of the heat produced 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. This is one of the earliest signs that a breast cancer may be forming.
Thermography is an imaging procedure that uses no radiation, no injections, no 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 us 90 percent sensitivity and specificity.
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, states: “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 a women began receiving thermographic scans in her 20s, she would be given a significant opportunity to change the course of her life. Breast cancers in younger women are generally more aggressive and have poorer survival rates. Breast thermography offers 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. 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 is offering a Breast Thermography Clinic from October 19 to 23. They will also be offering a Breast Health Talk at 7 p.m. on October 19. For more information, to register for the talk or to make a clinic appointment, call 703-865-5690 or email NeckBackAndBeyond@gmail.com.
Donna Marie Scippa has been a nurse practitioner in women’s health for more than 25 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.