Thermography – is It a Valuable Early Detection Tool?

The debate continues on Thermography vs. Mammography as early cancer detection tools.

There is no question there are risks with Mammograms.

To quote Dr. Wright of the Tahoma Clinic:

“A mammogram uses radiation to detect the internal anatomical structure of the breast. It is still considered the ‘Gold Standard’ for early detection of breast cancer.

Thermography detects the infrared emitted from the body surface to measure the physiological changes occurring within the breasts. Thermography has the advantage of detecting physiological changes which may be associated with future cancer growth up to ten years earlier than what can be detected with a mammogram.

Mammography has led to earlier detection of breast cancer leading to a 30-40% reduction in mortality rates from breast cancer. However, there is concern that low doses of irradiation can cause breast cancer. Trauma from tissue compression can cause spread of cancer cells and the majority of breast cancers are found in the upper outer quandrant of the breast – as area that often does not get scanned by mammography.”

Dr. Martha M. Grout of the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, in Scottsdale, Arizona writes:

“Cancer cells are different than healthy cells. For one, they use a lot more sugar. For another, they give off a lot more heat.

Chemical and blood vessel activity in the area surrounding a developing breast cancer is almost always higher than in the normal breast. Cancer cells need an abundant supply of nutrients to maintain their growth and this increased blood flow can increase the surface temperatures of the breast.

When a tumor is forming, it develops its own blood supply to feed its accelerated growth. Pre-cancerous tissues can start this process well in advance of the cells becoming malignant.

thermographyThermography measures the skin’s autonomic response to that inflammation – its “heat signature”.

The technology converts infrared radiation emitted from the skin surface into electrical impulses that are visualized in color. The spectrum of colors indicates an increase or decrease in the amount of infrared radiation being emitted from the body surface.”

With mammograms, the false negative reading rates (not detecting cancers) range from 10% to 40%.

According to the 2002 Breast Cancer Study, internists were named in 7% of the surveyed failure-to-diagnose breast cancer suits brought during the 1990s. Family physicians were named in 11% of cases and gynecologists in 29%. Radiologists topped the list, however, being named in 40% of all failure-to-diagnose breast cancer claims.

Mammography has not proved to be a flawless screening tool. It has a difficult time giving a good reading in women with dense breasts. It exposes women year after year to radiation. And there is the argument that compressing cancerous tissue will just spread the malignancy.

The compressive force used to obtain useable mammograms may be a contributing factor to breast cancer:

The British standard for the force used to squeeze the breast as flat as possible corresponds to placing twenty 1 kilogram bags of sugar on each breast. Researchers [at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland] fear that this force may be excessive and enough to dislocate and spread any existing cancer cells.

Animal experiments have shown that the number of cancer sites can increase by as much as 80% when tumors are manipulated mechanically.

There is mounting evidence that the x-rays from repeated mammograms induce cancer. Dr. John W. Gofman, an authority on the health effects of ionizing radiation, estimates that 75 percent of breast cancer could be prevented by avoiding or minimizing exposure to the ionizing radiation. This includes mammography, x-rays and other medical and dental sources.
(John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D., Radiation from Medical Procedures in the Pathogenesis of Cancer and Ischemic Heart Disease)


What other options are there?

Digital mammography is a mammography system in which x-ray film is replaced by solid-state detectors that convert x-rays into electric signals. Radiologists find that, like mammograms, it also produces many false positives.

Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another option. In younger women, this approach offers two advantages: the lack of ionizing radiation and the capability for enhanced imaging of dense breasts. However, this mode has a very high false-positive rate, is expensive, and requires specialized apparatus should a biopsy be necessary.

Thermography is a non-invasive, fifteen minute test. It does not use radiation, does not compress breast tissue, and it is better than mammography at early detection of breast function abnormalities.

The Breast Cancer Detection and Demonstration Project (BCDDP) is a multi-center study performed from 1973-79, and was aimed at demonstrating whether thermography could replace mammography or breast examination as a sole screening tool.

Unfortunately, there were significant protocol violations, and many of the personnel who collected the data were untrained in thermography technique. Thus the data collected were poor.

The more thermograms turned in so-called false positives, the more suspicion was placed on thermography. Although a decade later many of those “false positive” women were found to have developed breast cancer, the establishment had already spoken, declaring thermography a failure.

The consensus among experts is that early detection of breast cancer holds the key to survival. If mammography’s look at structure can detect a cancerous mass, and thermography’s look at systems can detect early suspicions of cancer formation, then it stands to reason thermography can act as an early warning system, giving women the fighting chance they need to win this battle.

Thermography is ideal for women who

  • have had cosmetic or reconstructive surgery (implants)
  • want to avoid radiation
  • have dense breasts
  • are pregnant or nursing

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2 thoughts on “Thermography – is It a Valuable Early Detection Tool?

    1. I totally understand. The only down side to the Thermogram is that you are c-c-cold for about 30 minutes. 🙂 A hugely agreeable trade-off.

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