Assessing Breast Cancer Risk With Digital Thermography
Sep 26, 2013 01:52PM
● By Matthew Robinson and Susan Saari
For years, mammography has been considered the “gold standard” in breast cancer screening. The technique involves passing X-rays through compressed breast tissue to produce images that can reveal structural abnormalities. The average cancer can take up to 10 years to form a mass large enough to be revealed in a mammogram, however, and the screening is incapable of detecting the changes that take place during this growth period.
Activities that coincide with the development of tumors include increased vascularization, or blood supply, and increased lymphatic drainage. There is also an intensified inflammatory response in the area surrounding the growing cells. Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI), commonly known as thermography, is a risk-assessment tool that can be used to detect these early changes.
Thermography, which has been available in the United States since the 1960s, was approved by the FDA in 1982 as an adjunct to mammography. It works by comparing a series of thermal images of the breast taken over a period of time. In healthy individuals, an initial baseline is established by performing two scans over a three-month interval. A board-certified thermologist examines the scans, noting the unique characteristics of a person’s vascular anatomy and recording the details for comparison with future scans. These baseline images act much like a thermal “fingerprint” and tend to be quite stable over time, unless there is a developing pathology.
The images used in thermography are taken with an infrared camera in a non-invasive manner, without compression or radiation. A major advantage of thermography is that it can look at all areas relating to breast health and function, beyond the actual breast tissue. Because it doesn’t depend on compressed breast tissue for diagnosis, thermography can be an ideal method for monitoring breast health in men, younger women, women with breast implants and those who have had mastectomies.
Thermography offers early risk assessment by identifying the early functional and physiological changes that mark the growth of cancer. Even though these changes take place inside the body, they are reflected on the surface of the skin as heat, which makes them detectable by thermography. By providing early warning of functional changes taking place in the breast, thermography offers the greatest opportunity for proactive changes in lifestyle, nutrition and complementary therapies to rebalance the system and maintain optimal breast health.
Matthew Robinson, LicAc, MAc, is an acupuncturist specializing in trauma and cancer care. Susan Saari, LicAc, MAOM, is a certified health educator, acupuncturist and certified clinical thermographer. Their practice, Metrowest Thermal Imaging, is located at 25 Grant St., Waltham, and 364 Boston Turnpike Rd., Shrewsbury. For more information, call 781-899-2121 or visit MyThermography.com.