Thermography is used in the detection of abnormal temperature differences in the body to identify and diagnose injuries, disorders, or tumors found on a thermogram. A thermogram is the heat-based image produced by infrared thermography. Infrared energy is emitted from the thermographic camera and the resulting data is converted into temperature levels displayed on a screen for the human eye to interpret. Because the body is symmetrical, the temperature of one side will be compared to the other to find aberrations. Large areas of a warmer temperature found when the patient has not exercised recently are one possible indication of a problem. Thermography does not produce radiation, and it is noninvasive because the patient is positioned around five to eight feet away from the thermographic camera. The equipment is expensive, which means that the typical neighborhood hospital probably does not have the tools to perform infrared thermography. The camera’s heat-detection accuracy is not perfect; with the accuracy having some room for error that could make a difference depending on the size and cause of abnormal heat.1 Breast thermography is performed in order to find “cancer, fibrocystic disease, an infection or a vascular disease”. Areas where the temperature is greater than average should be monitored, often finding the earlier stages of the malignant conditions. Even small temperature anomalies will be found and studied. Early detection can save lives, and regular, annual checkups should be attended in order to stay consistently aware of breast health.2
Thermography vs. Mammography
Thermography and mammography are two ways that a doctor might identify breast cancer before the patient has begun to experience symptoms. Mammography is performed to produce x-ray images called mammograms. “The breast is compressed between two plates and an X-ray is transmitted through the breast tissue”. The tissue in some breasts is dense, which could mask the presence of tumors or calcium buildups found in mammograms while breasts with a lower density of fatty tissue are easier to interpret. Mammography is recommended by some organizations to be undergone women from the ages of fifty to seventy-four years old every two years. Mammography does come with some risks, including radiation exposure that could potentially cause the development of cancer if used over a very long time, and the misdiagnosis of noninvasive cancers leading to unnecessary treatment. False positives are more likely to be found in women under the age of fifty. Thermography, as previously mentioned, does not involve contact with the thermographic camera or any other devices nor is there any exposure to radiation. Thermography can also find vascular changes in the tissue associated with cancer years before other methods, and hormonal changes and dense breast tissue do not affect the results. Unfortunately, infrared thermography also has the possibility of false positives and false negatives. However, the test may be done more often without the radiation exposure risk in order to confirm or disprove the potential dangers. Ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are the follow-up procedures recommended if the mammography or thermography has produced a positive result for a tumor. Ultrasound cannot always detect smaller buildups of calcium, so it is often performed along with mammography. An MRI can see the size of the tumor as well as search for other malignant growths.3
Other Ways to Take Care of Your Breasts
The risk of breast cancer might come from family history, early menstruation and late menopause, a sedentary lifestyle, alcohol abuse, and possibly even the storage of a cell phone in the bra. Going to a doctor for a professional opinion and the use of medical devices to spot dangers is important, but self-care is also a way to catching early warning signs. Lying down on a bed and examining the breasts for any abnormalities, from lumps to discoloration, one week after the end of a menstrual period is one way to catch the symptoms before they become more dangerous. A doctor can also teach methods for proper examination. The knowledge of any family history of breast cancer is important information for the doctor. Exercise of moderate intensity, performed for thirty minutes three or four times per week decreases the risk of breast cancer as well. Fortunately, breast cancer does not spread too rapidly. If caught early by infrared thermography, the growths will be treated and future monitoring can be done more closely in order to prevent the disease from becoming deadly. Contrary to what some may believe, the use of oral contraceptives, or “the pill”, is not a cause of increased breast cancer risk. Older women are more at risk for breast cancer, with the average diagnosis of cancer being found in women at about the age of sixty. Though the research is incomplete, some studies show that women in disadvantaged countries might develop breast cancer ten to fifteen years earlier. Breast cancer is a serious issue, so the proper precautions and early detection should be taken.4
Find out more about potential health risks to your breasts.