Tap To Call : 843-572-1600

Breast Thermography

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women, behind lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Association, in 2007 an estimated 178,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women, as well as an estimated 62,030 additional cases of in situ breast cancer. In addition, approximately 40,460 women are expected to have died from breast cancer in 2007. Given these circumstances, early detection of breast cancer is considered an important prognostic factor

Breast thermography, also known as thermal breast imaging, is a technique that takes thermal images of the breasts and surrounding areas to aid in the early detection of breast cancer. Thermography assesses function rather than anatomically.

It is based on the principle that metabolic activity and vascular circulation in both pre-cancerous tissue and the area surrounding a developing breast cancer is almost always higher than in normal breast tissue. In an ever-increasing need for nutrients, cancerous tumors increase circulation to their cells by holding open existing blood vessels, opening dormant vessels, and creating new ones (neoangiogenesis). This process frequently results in an increase in regional surface temperatures of the breast. Breast thermography uses ultra-sensitive medical infrared cameras and sophisticated computers to detect, analyze, and produce high-resolution images of these temperature variations. Because of this technique’s extreme sensitivity, these temperature variations may be among the earliest signs of breast cancer and/or a pre-cancerous state of the breast.

Heat is an indication that inflammation exists, and typically inflammation is present in precancerous and cancerous cells. It’s also present in torn muscles and ligaments as well as arthritic joints, which thermography can also detect. Breast thermography does not involve the compression of the breast or exposure to radiation. While thermography can localize an abnormal area, it is unable to pinpoint the actual depth, location, and size of a tumor.

Thermography as a breast cancer risk assessment tool in the US has been approved by the FDA since 1982, and as a screening tool for breast cancer, thermography was first introduced in 1956 and was accepted widely by medical professionals at that time.

Process of Breast Thermography

Breast thermography uses ultra-sensitive infrared cameras and sophisticated computers to detect, analyze, and produce high-resolution diagnostic images of these temperature and vascular changes. 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 detection of cancer possible. 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 the breast.

The procedure involves the use of an infrared high-resolution camera that takes images of each breast. The data collected from the images are then analyzed by computer algorithms that compare infrared patterns. The procedure takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Breast thermography does not involve the compression of the breast or exposure to radiation. While thermography can localize an abnormal area, it is unable to pinpoint the actual depth, location, and size of a tumour.

Blood is the main heat exchanging fluid in the body; therefore pathologies identified by thermography are generally associated with changes in blood perfusion. Studies suggest that in normal breast tissue there is a constant positive curve of thermal conductivity, where temperature gradually increases from skin to deep tissue, whereas in breasts with a cancerous lesion, the thermal conductivity resembled a bell-shaped curve. The evidence of a discrepant temperature profile implies that there is something in the middle of this breast type of tissue that releases large amounts of heat.

What does the test reveal ?

The personalized full thermography report comes in color including the images taken during the scan. This report includes a reporting system called the Marseille System of Classification, which provides strict criteria for rating Breast Thermography scans. The Marseille System of Classification is internationally used. The scans are reported on a scale of TH-1 to TH-5 –

  • TH-1 – Normal tissue
  • TH-2 – Some changes in tissue i.e. fibrocystic, but normal response to cold challenge
  • TH-3 – Suspicious tissue activity with areas not responding to the cold challenge and maintaining higher heat areas
  • TH-4 – Abnormal tissue activity with areas not responding to the cold challenge and maintaining higher heat areas
  • TH-5 – severely abnormal tissue activity with areas not responding to the cold challenge and maintaining higher heat areas.

Follow-up thermography scans are dependent on your individual clinical history and thermography results –

  • Level TH-1 – Provides reassurance the tissue activity is normal. The appropriate follow-up is screening by thermography in one year.
  • Level Th-2 – Suggests that tissue did respond normally to the cold challenge and tissue health can be improved through preventive therapies. Suitable follow-up screening recommended within 9-12 months.
  • Level TH-3 – Indicates that close monitoring through ultrasound and professional examination are advised and preventive therapies are needed. Suitable follow-up screening recommended within 6-9 months.
  • Levels TH-4 & TH-5 – Warrants immediate referral for extra testing on the areas specifically located by the Breast Thermography alongside a professional examination and other screening methods as indicated and appropriate preventive therapies. Suitable follow-up screening recommended within 1-3 months.

What else besides breast examinations is thermography useful for?

  • Nervous System Disorders
  • Metabolic Disorders
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries
  • Headaches, Neck and Back Problems
  • TMJ Conditions
  • Pain Syndromes such as Fibromyalgia, myositis
  • Arthritis
  • Vascular Disorders (Raynoud’s disease, etc.)
  • Soft Tissue Injuries

In addition, there are patterns detectable by thermograms that suggest stroke risk, etc. Any condition for which there is an alteration of blood flow or circulation. Other physiological occurrences detected through thermal fluctuations include complex soft tissue injury, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, osteo-arthritis, neo-natal activity, dental infection, intra-operative surgical fluctuations, breast implant rupture, and melanoma. Many other applications are currently undergoing study.

 

Breast thermography offers women information that no other procedure can provide. However, breast thermography is not a replacement for or alternative to mammography or any other form of breast imaging. Breast thermography is a risk assessment tool that is meant to be used in addition to mammography and other tests or procedures. Breast thermography and mammography are complementary procedures, one test does not replace the other. All thermography reports are meant to identify thermal emissions that suggest potential risk markers only and do not in any way suggest diagnosis and/or treatment. Studies show that the earliest detection is realized when multiple tests are used together. This multimodal approach includes breast self-examinations, physical breast exams by a doctor, mammography, ultrasound, MRI, thermography, and other tests that may be ordered by the doctor.