What is Thermography?
Thermography was first approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1983 to be used alongside mammograms for the detection of breast cancer. It is a non-invasive procedure, and does not require the use of compression or exposure to ionizing radiation, which are the most common complaints that are associated with mammography screening.
The use of thermal imaging is based on the principle that metabolic activity and vascular circulation is always greater in areas of cancerous and pre-cancerous tissues. This is because cancerous tumors have an ever-increasing need for nutrients which results in an increase in the regional surface temperatures of the breast tissue. Thermography uses ultra-sensitive medical infrared cameras and sophisticated computers to detect, analyze, and produce high-resolution images that can detect these slight temperature variations. Doctors who specialize in examining thermographic images will be able to identify whether or not angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) is taking place. Because of the extreme sensitivity of the equipment used, these temperature variations may provide the earliest indication of breast cancer and/or a pre-cancerous states of the breast, and this can often detect cancerous growths at very early stages.
Thermography imaging is much more sensitive to subtle temperature changes in the body
While mammograms, ultrasounds, MRI’s, and physical examinations rely primarily on finding physical tumors, digital infrared imaging relies on detecting slight temperature variances that are far more sensitive. This imaging technique can locate a pre-cancerous state of the breast or the presence an early tumor that is not yet large enough to be detected by any other means. Studies indicate that thermograms can detect cancer when there are only about 250 cancer cells present, mammograms cannot detect cancer until there are about 4 million cells, or a tumor is about 1 mm in size. Additionally, sometimes there can be difficulty in reading mammograms in women who use hormone replacement therapy, are nursing, have fibrocystic/dense breasts, or have had breast enhancements; these variances will not cause difficulties when viewing with digital infrared imaging.
What does a thermography appointment generally consist of:
The multi-image exam only takes about 15 minutes. The patient is asked to disrob from the waist up and is seated while the infrared camera takes multiple digital images in different positions. There is no physical contact from the infrared camera. The first session provides the baseline of your “thermal signature.” Having the procedure annually will help you detect changes before any disease can develop.
Paying for this therapy- Insurance companies do not cover the use of thermograms because the FDA has not recognized the use of thermography as a stand alone procedure for detecting cancer. You can locate approved clinics (using the link below) that offer this therapy and then pay out-of-pocket for the procedure.
Dr Mercola on the use of thermography
Read more articles in this breast cancer series