Breast thermography Around the World

Who isn’t familiar with the expression, “early detection is the best prevention?” We hear this term throughout the year and most everyone is familiar with this catch phrase as it relates to breast cancer. Obviously, a woman’s chance for survival improves when a cancer is found early. We hear that simple rhyming statement but are women really offered early detection?
Our gold standard for breast cancer screening is mammography, clinical breast exam and self-breast exam. Other techniques are used but all current technologies examine structure; something is formed and large enough to be seen or felt. However, it is well-documented that a mass that is detected by mammography has been growing for 8-10 years before it was detected. Is this early detection?
There exists a technology that can detect an issue YEARS before a tumor can be seen on X-ray or palpated during an exam and truly offers early detection. This technology has been approved by the FDA as an adjunctive screening tool since 1982 and offers no radiation, no compression and no pain. For women who are searching for early breast cancer detection, digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) may be of interest.

Historically, DITI fell out of favor shortly after its initial debut in the early 80s. When DITI was first introduced, strict protocols and trained technicians did not exist. Shortly after its initial beginnings, DITI fell out of favor as a diagnostic tool in the medical community.
There are now very strict protocols both for testing and interpreting. Perhaps due to these guidelines, thermography is exploding in its technique and capabilities. Thermal cameras detect heat emitted from the body and display it as a picture on a computer monitor.
These images are unique to the person and remain stable over time. It is because of these characteristics that thermal imaging is a valuable and effective screening tool. Tumors or other breast diseases measures warmer than surrounding tissue and can thereby alert a physician to a problem before a tumor is actually palpable.
Medical doctors who interpret the breast scans are board certified thermologists. Thermography is not limited by breast density and is ideal for women who have had cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, women who refuse mammography, or women who want clinical correlation for an already existing issue. Thermography, because it analyzes a developing process, may identify a problem several years before mammography. As we all know, early detection is important to survival.
DITI has an average sensitivity and specificity of 90%. An abnormal thermogram carries a 10x greater risk for cancer. A persistent abnormal thermogram carries a 22x greater risk for cancer. Thermography, as well as mammography is a personal choice for women. This decision ideally should be made in collaboration between you and your physician. However, thermography does not require a physician’s order.

COMMENT: This was a wonderfully written press release that I reprinted in its entirety. Why? Because it came from a online newspaper from Sofia, Bulagaria.  An Eastern European country is advocating the use of thermography; U.S. doctors should take note.


Thermogram vs. Mammogram

People often wonder if a thermogram is better than a mammogram, or if they can get a painless thermogram instead of a painful mammogram.  Though both tests are used to detect breast cancer, each test has a different purpose.

A thermogram detects subtle heat changes that point to an area of evolving pathology in the breast. This may or may not be cancer. A mammogram is used to detect a mass that has already formed in the breast, often identified by a cluster of calcium specks.  By the time a mammogram locates a tumor, it has been growing for at least 5 years.

Making the decision about getting a thermogram vs. a mammogram should be done with much discussion about risk factors, family history and lifestyle. For example, if you have had many years normal mammograms, have no family history and have a great lifestyle coupled with a normal thermogram and normal clinical exam, you may want to consider having a mammogram every three to four years and simply get an annual clinical exam and thermogram. However, if you have a very strong family history, drink alcohol and don’t take supplements, you may want to consider annual mammograms in addition to your annual exam and thermogram. If you have a very abnormal thermogram and you have not had a mammogram in several years, you must get a mammogram (and possibly an ultrasound) right away.

The most effective way to find breast cancer is to use all available tools as often as is necessary.   For example, a clinical breast exam performed by highly trained fingers can identify 61% of tumors that turn out to be cancer.  Adding a mammogram, increases the ability to find a cancer to 84%.  Research done in Montreal in the mid-1990s demonstrated that adding a thermogram to breast exam and conventional mammogram increases the ability to find cancer early — do something about it — to 95%. Thermography not just an either/or test; it is a value-added test that both you and your doctor should learn more about.

Thermography: Redefining the Meaning of Early Detection.

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Low Dose Radiation and Breast Cancer Risks

According to the International Journal of Cancer, some forms of low-dose radiation treatment, including chest xrays and for acne treatments, may increase the risk of breast cancer, particularly in genetically susceptible women.

Self-reported information was available for 2,254 breast cancer patients and 3,431 healthy women, which included the sisters of the patients or women from the general population. Radiation treatment of a previous cancer increased the risk of breast cancer by 3.55-foldThey also noted a trend toward higher breast cancer risk among women who received radiotherapy for acne or other skin conditions. Women who had diagnostic chest X-rays for tuberculosis or pneumonia had more than twice the normal risk of breast cancer.

COMMENT: Conventional medicine stopped using routine annual chest xrays years ago because of the increased risk of cancer.  It is time for women to understand that routine mammograms are leading to the same endpoint. For each 1 rad of radiation (which is about 2 mammograms) the risk of cancer is increased by 1 percent.  Radiation accumulates it doesn’t simply pass through the tissues onto the plastic plate.

Thermography’s only error is that it is “too early.” The tools to address a positive thermogram include diet, exercise, iodine, and other neutraceuticals that conventional doctors know little, if anything, about.  It is in this capacity that the paradigm must shift.

Increasing the widespread use of thermography is an exciting opportunity. By painlessly screening younger women using a high resolution tool without radiation, we may be able to prevent or minimize not only cancer, but all breast disease.

Thermography: Redefining the Meaning of Early Detection

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False Positive Mammograms

Thermography has been dismissed as unreliable by conventional physicians, claiming that the tool produces too many false positives.  Research since the 1970s has reported a false positive rate for thermography ranging from 6 to 13 percent.

Mammograms have a similar false positive rate.  How many times are women called back for “extra views” or had a biopsy that turned out to be benign (by the way, eight of ten biopsies are normal.) Those extra tests are a result of a false positive mammogram interpretation

Radiologists vary greatly in their ability to accurately interpret mammograms.  The most accurate interpretations are by physicians who have at least 25 years of experience, interpret 2,500 to 4,000 mammograms annually and have a practice focused on screening. However, the overall range of accuracy is frightening. 

In a study published in 2005 by U.S. Army Medical Research for its “Era of Hope Project,” radiologists (on average) accurately identified only 77 percent of cancers. For individual radiologists, the detection rate ranged from 29 percent to 97 percent. Think about that: Some physicians only found about 30 percent of tumors on a mammogram.  

Researchers further reported that while the average false positive rate for mammograms was 10%, the overall false positive reporting rate for individual physicians ranged from 1 percent to almost 30 percent.  A meta-analysis of 117 studies published April, 2007 in Annals of Internal Medicine  reported that false-positive results are 20% to 56% after 10 mammograms.

COMMENT: For thermogram nay-sayers, the facts speak for themselves. Thermography is at least as good as, and in many cases, provides more information than mammograms. In addition, it is painless and uses no radiation.

The bulk of the research involving breast thermography was conducted in the 1980s. State-of-the-art, ultra-sensitive infrared cameras and sophisticated computer software has evolved to detect, analyze, and produce high-resolution images.  The problems encountered with first generation infrared camera systems, such as improper detector sensitivity (low-band), thermal drift, calibration problems, analog interface, etc. have been solved for almost two decades.  Think about the difference between black and white televisions and the new plasma screen TVs. Consider the evolution from the first computers that were housed in rooms to the handheld gigabyte gadgets common today. Technology progresses in every area; tools used today for breast thermography are vastly improved over equipment used twenty years ago. The results showed its usefulness then; the new tools make it even more important now. 

It’s time to put this technology in its rightful place as an important tool for breast health. Using thermography will redefine the meaning of Early Detection.

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Breast implants, mammograms and thermograms

Breast augmentation surgery is the most common cosmetic surgery in America. It is estimated that 4 million women have undergone breast implant surgery in the U.S., approximately 500,000 more will do so in 2007. According to the, breast implants may decrease the ability of mammograms to identify cancer because they can obscure a tumor. Depending on which studies are cited, it’s estimated that implants can obscure more than 50 percent of breast tissue.

The difference comes down to where they are placed. Those inserted below the chest muscle (about 50%) are less likely to obscure tissue than those placed above.  Both silicone and gel implants look like white “blobs” on the xray and may prevent a view of the tissue below.  In all cases, instead of the two standard views taken for each breast, four views are taken…adding up to more radiation.  The risk of rupture, although small, is real. Between June, 1992 and October of 2002, there were 41 cases of implant ruptures during mammography were reported to the FDA. 

COMMENT: The use of thermography in women who have breast implants is an area that deserves intense investigation. I have seen several women in my office who refused mammograms because they had implants. One woman’s thermogram was very abnormal and with much coaxing, she was convinced to obtain a mammogram. Unfortunately, she was found to have cancer in both breasts. 

Could this have been detected earlier if she had obtained regular mammograms? Quite possibly. But if women are going to refuse mammograms (for whatever reason, not just because they have implants), at the very least, they should get a thermogram. We need to redefine the meaning of Early Detection.

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Men get breast cancer too

Last week, ran a story on James Barlow, a 79 year old retired district judge, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  When his two daughters were diagnosed with breast cancer, a blood test revealed that Barlow had the cancer gene, BRCA2. Women have this defective gene have about a 50 percent risk of contracting cancer; in men, it is nearly 70 percent.

After discovering a lump on his chest wall, breast cancer was diagnosed. His treatment involved a mastectomy and radiation for his Stage III disease.

COMMENT: Men, especially those with a female family member who has had breast cancer, deserve thermographic screening too. Consider the anatomic difficulties of attempting a mammogram on a man; MRI and ultrasounds are the only diagnostic options. And these can only be utilized after a mass had been identified. This is not “early detection” for the sake of prevention. With thermography, entire breast area can be observed and may have identified areas of concern before Mr. Barlow found his non-resolving lump. 

“Meet Tracy Craig”…

On August 1, 2007, WMBB, Channel 13 news from Panama City, Florida carried the following story, “Meet Tracy Craig””

Tracy Craig is 41 years old and was diagnosed with DCIS earlier this year. She had no history of breast cancer in her family and did not notice any symptoms. Tracy discovered her DCIS through a routine mammogram. She has undergone 8 weeks of radiation and a lumpectomy. Fortunately, Tracy has recovered and is now a “survivor.” She is advising women to get their mammograms.

COMMENT: Problem is, a normal mammogram is not necessarily a clean bill of health.

A better idea? Get a thermogram. Tracy is typical of many women between 30 and 50 years when mammograms are either not recommended, or give equivocal results due to density.  With a thermogram, Tracy may have identify problems up to 7 years before  her official cancer diagnosis…when she was in ther 30s…giving her time to take proactive steps toward breast health.

Better than becoming a “Survivor,” be a breast cancer avoider! Thermography: Redefining the meaning of “early detection.”

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