The Scoop On Breast Screening
Apr 30, 2013 10:33PM
● By Pamela Howard
Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI), also called thermography, is a screening tool for breast health with which many people are just becoming familiar. However, thermal imaging is actually an old tool, developed in 1940, updated significantly with the introduction of new technology and electronic software. This non-invasive screening tool measures the skin’s surface temperature in order to detect subtle abnormal temperature differences. Similar to the way a healthcare provider uses a thermometer to measure body temperature as a sign of any abnormality in health, thermography measures heat patterns that provide information on potential areas of concern, often before signs and symptoms are exhibited. This allows for a proactive approach to healthcare.
In breast screening, thermography is used to detect subtle increases in heat that may be generated by the growth of tumor cells and any independent blood supply that may form to feed a tumor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers mammography the gold standard for breast screening, and has approved thermography as an adjunct. The two screening tools provide different types of information and do not replace each other. Mammography visualizes the anatomical density (structure) within the breast, but it cannot tell if that density is benign or active. Thermography measures the physiological activity occurring there, but it does not see the structure. When used together, each method supplies a separate puzzle piece. Abnormalities detected by both screening tools require further clinical evaluation and possibly a biopsy to determine the certainty of any abnormal cellular activity.
It is important to note that when utilizing thermography for breast screening, it does require two studies, performed three months apart, in order to establish a baseline before proceeding to annual scans. Measuring activity requires an evaluation over time to determine the difference between an individual’s normal thermal patterning (similar to a fingerprint) and any changes that may occur.
Because thermography measures the skin’s surface temperature, it involves neither body contact nor radiation, is not affected by the density of the breast tissue and can be performed safely and painlessly, regardless of implants or surgeries. Thermography can be used on women of all ages and is one of the few tools for imaging inflammatory breast cancer. In most cases, insurance does not cover thermography, but it is affordable and can be paid through flex spending or health savings accounts.
When looking for a thermographer, verify that the person performing the scan is a certified clinical thermographer, or CCT, and that the interpretation is made by a licensed medical doctor, board certified in thermology. In addition, it is beneficial for the interpreting doctor to be part of a centralized interpretation service in order to recall images for future comparison purposes.
Understanding our options is empowering. Perform a monthly breast self-exam and have an annual physical exam; the more a woman knows about her body, the easier and earlier it is to detect changes.
Pamela Howard, doctor of chiropractic, certified clinical thermographer and certified cancer support educator, founded Advanced Thermal Imaging in 2005 and provides services in Mechanicsburg and Columbia, PA. For more information, call 866-522-3484 or visit AThermalImage.com.