Thermography – A Preventive Tool for Breast Health
In spite of breast cancer NOT being the leading cause of death among all women, it seems to be the disease that sparks the most fear and distress. Perhaps it’s due to our breasts being a blatant and visible definition of our femininity, both in attracting male attention and also in nurturing our children. They seem to have a life of their own as evidenced by so many of us calling them “the girls” or “the tatas”. We don’t generally refer to other body parts with a special name.
For the past 12 years, I’ve considered it to be part of my job to allay the fears of women surrounding their breast health. I’ve encouraged them to take time to breathe, not jump to conclusions and get all the information available to make a fully informed decision. For many women, part of that information gathering includes thermal imaging. Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging, aka thermography has been available for decades, though not covered by insurance, which means you’re unlikely to have heard about it from your physician.
Thermography is a non-invasive, screening tool that is highly sensitive to subtle differences in skin surface temperature. Unlike most screening modalities, thermography is non-invasive. It uses no radiation, injections or compression to achieve its images.
Thermography and Breast Screening
According to the American Cancer Society, the leading cause of death in women ages 40-44 is breast cancer. Given that, it takes approximately 15 years for breast cancer to develop and lead to death. Safe and accurate screening, beginning in one’s mid 20’s, should help reduce the death rate in that age group.
The benefit of thermography in breast screening is that it offers the opportunity of earlier detection of breast disease than has been possible through breast self examination, doctor examination or mammography alone. Thermography detects the subtle physiologic changes that accompany breast pathology, whether it is cancer, fibrocystic disease, an infection or a vascular disease.
The protocol for breast screening includes five images: one from the front, one from each side (arms raised to include armpits and lymph area), and one from each oblique angle. The procedure is quick and painless, comparable to being photographed. Initially, two screenings 3 months apart generally establish a thermal baseline. After that, an annual screening is sufficient.
All women can benefit from thermography. Younger women can start screening safely in their 20’s and 30’s, older women who still have dense breast tissue will find this means effective and women who have already had a mastectomy can safely and accurately continue to monitor the affected region.
Some women have serious concerns about the cumulative effects of radiation and want to limit their exposure. Thermography allows them to monitor their breast health without the risk of additional radiation exposure.
Thermography and Inflammatory Breast Cancer
News of inflammatory breast cancer has made the rounds on the internet and e-mails due to numerous reports done by KOMO TV in Seattle. Inflammatory breast cancer is particularly difficult to diagnose by traditional means because it produces no tumors, rendering conventional screening methods less effective. By the time it is diagnosed, it has often progressed to a late stage. Given the inflammatory nature of the disease, thermography is an ideal means of screening for this silent killer.
Thermography vs. Mammograms
Thermography is not meant to replace mammograms. It is used in conjunction with mammograms and clinical breast exams to give the patient the opportunity to make decisions with as much information as possible.
One study published in the American Journal of Radiology in 2003 demonstrated that thermography had a 97% sensitivity in distinguishing benign from malignant growths. The conclusion stated: “Infrared imaging offers a safe, non-invasive procedure that would be valuable as an adjunct to mammography in determining whether a lesion is benign or malignant”.
If you find yourself in a difficult situation concerning your breast health, consider thermography as a means of gaining more
information about the health of your breasts which can make it easier for you and your provider to make a fully educated choice.
Ingrid LeVasseur, BA, CCT is a certified clinical thermographer who received her training at Duke University. She has been a teacher of meditation for 23 years and spent four years teaching meditation and the principles of Ayurveda under the medical direction of Dr. Deepak Chopra. She founded Inner Image Clinical Thermography in 2006, offering thermal imaging services from her office in Falmouth and other Maine locations as well She can be reached at 207-781-6060 or through her web site at: www.MyInnerImage.com