Thermography, also called thermal imaging, uses specialized cameras to measure the temperature of the surface of the skin. Using an infrared thermal camera, thermography is a non-invasive test that involves no exposure to ionizing radiation. Thermography can be used to help you assess your overall breast, tissue, or organ health. Full body thermography can be used to detect thermal markers that may alert your doctor to a future health problem.
The hallmarks of cancer cells are their rapid growth, high metabolism, and increased blood flow. Increases in blood flow, metabolism, and inflammation all correspond with an increase in the temperature of the skin–which can be detected by the specialized cameras of thermography.
The presence of unusual inflammation shows up on the infrared image as areas with higher skin temperature, displayed in the case of a breast cancer screening as patterns that make a sort of heat map of the breasts.
Thermography is a non-invasive, non-contact procedure . Unlike a mammogram, it does not require forced compression of the breast or exposure to radiation, so can be safely used frequently over time. It is suitable for use in all women , including those with dense breast tissue and breast implants, as neither interfere with the type of information it detects.
For women who do not want or cannot tolerate mammograms, this is an alternative that may help expose problems requiring investigation. However, the FDA does not recommend thermography as a standalone test for breast cancer screening, and they warn that it “may miss the chance to detect cancer at its earliest stage” when used alone. Studies have shown that the earliest detection of breast cancer is realized when multiple tests are used together. This multimodal approach includes breast self-exams, physical breast exams by a doctor, mammography, ultrasound, and thermography.
Thermography offers the patient information that no other procedure can provide. However, it is a risk assessment tool that is meant to be used in addition to mammography or other tests or procedures; breast thermography and mammography are complementary procedures, and one test does not replace the other in terms of the information it provides. Thermography reports are meant to identify abnormal thermal emissions that suggest potential risk markers but do not suggest diagnosis and/or treatment. Please meet our thermography technician below!