The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2012 there will be 226,870 women diagnosed with breast cancer. Early detection, healthy nutrition, and preventative medicine can reduce the mortality and severity of breast disease. In cohort with mammography, thermography can provide an adjunctive tool for increasing the accuracy of detection of breast lesions.
What is thermography?
Thermography will take a series of pictures of the breast that captures the various temperatures including tissue around the benign and malignant cells. Inflammation and changes in density of breast tissue will show up as a warmer color on the screen because of the temperature increase compared to the noncancerous tissue. A thermograph detects a temperature change as low as .025°C. Anytime you have inflammation in any part of your body, your body’s innate response is to increase the temperature in the tissue surrounding the foreign cells or object, such as cancerous/malignant cells, so it can kill and eliminate it from your body. The body increases the temperature by dedicating more blood to that area for quicker blood flow and to bring cells to fight the foreign cells. This also explains why your body develops a fever when you have a bacterial or viral infection. When a woman starts to develop breast cancer, the blood supply and inflammation increase in the surrounding tissue.
Thermography has been used as a tool for breast tissue density exams since 1956 to detect breast tissue abnormalities as well as breast cancer. Despite the advances in technology that have made thermography more accurate, thermography still has some limitations. It is not recommended to use thermography to replace mammography at this time, but rather as a complement to mammography. Today, there are many steps being taken to increase the efficacy of thermography, along with advances being made in other breast imaging techniques such as mammography, ultrasound, and MRI to maximize their accuracy. Therefore, it can be a useful screening tool for patients who have the risk factors for developing breast cancer in conjunction with mammograms, as well as, monitoring breast changes for women going through hormone replacement therapy. If interested in thermography, contact us today to help you find a licensed Thermography center.
Pros and Cons Overview:
Thermography Pros: as an adjunctive imaging alongside mammogram can increase the accuracy of detection, it is non-invasive, and there is no radiation.
Thermography Cons: despite increasing technology, it lacks the degree of sensitivity and specificity to be a pre-screening tool just on its own. It can also have a degree of false positives.
Mammogram Pros: best for early detection of breast lesions, it is the best researched and defined screening tool for breast lesions in non-dense breast tissue.
Mammogram Cons: has a lower sensitivity with dense breast tissue, has relatively high false positive rates that increase the rate of breast biopsies, and has a small risk from the gamma radiation.
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