My sister, Lynda, and I are Level III Certified Clinical Thermographers, certified and trained by the ACCT, American College of Clinical Thermology. We are grateful to be part of this wellness industry and strive to grow our individual businesses with integrity.
We challenge ourselves to convey accurate and reliable information regarding what thermography can detect and how it is best utilized as a tool for monitoring breast health. Most clients understand its effectiveness as a tool for early detection of developing disease and preventive screening.
Although we feel we’ve covered this topic repeatedly, we’d like to review again the appropriate use of thermography in breast health. Thermography cannot (and is NOT designed) to “see” structures but rather, blood flow/temperatures related to the health of the breasts. It is in this fashion that thermography can detect the development of later biopsy-proven breast cancer potentially at a very early stage. At the appointment, we also discuss the requirement to establish a stable baseline to which all annual studies are compared against. Any changes in that stable baseline indicates the early development of disease and for those with a mindset of prevention, it’s best to reverse this back to the previously-established, stable baseline. This is how thermography is best-utilized as a tool for PREVENTING future disease.
So why does thermography sometimes not identify all breast tumors?
What is the physiological basis for a thermographically “missed” tumor?”
1. Lack of activity.
In order to understand how a tumor could “hide” thermographically, understand that our cameras can only measure skin surface temperatures related to blood flow. If a tumor is no longer active and there is no blood flow feeding the tumor, we cannot tell the difference between the temperature of the tumor and the surrounding tissue. Thermographically, this would be (generally) one temperature and therefore, “missed” during thermographic interpretation.
Another possible reason for a “missed” finding is that a tumor may become dormant. Perhaps the immune system has encapsulated the tumor; walled off the tumor from the rest of the body and has contained it. When you think about it, this is one major role of the immune system. In this scenario, the immune system is protecting the body from the invading tumor but thermographically it is not seen due to the lack of activity (blood flow) of the tumor.
In some cases, some rare cancers may not be vascularized or may be non-inflammatory in nature. That would mean that there is not a sympathetic component (vasodilatation and vasoconstriction) connected to the activity of the tumor and this would be “missed” as well.
While some may think thermography “failed” they may want to consider whether they truly understand the proper use of this technology. We utilize DITI (Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging) to watch for changes over time and it is not to be used to find cancer. Certainly we come across changes that eventually lead to a diagnosis of cancer, but ultimately, DITI is not a cancer detection tool.
DITI is used by women (and men) who have shifted their paradigm from one of “detection of disease” to one of “prevention of disease.” Annual breast thermograms monitor for a change allowing early interventions to help shift you back to your stable baseline. This is the best use of Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging.
|Client, age 32 stable baseline||Annual:
Unhealthy lifestyle changes: poor diet, increased alcohol intake, decreased exercise & disturbed sleep.
|Follow-up Scan: Improvements to diet, sleep, reduced alcohol intake, stress management & nutritional supplementation. Back to stable baseline.|
Below is a list of questions that frequently arise in regards to the above information:
If a tumor is not active (dormant) does that mean it’s not significant and I won’t need to do anything?
Cancer is unpredictable and it wouldn’t be practical to make such a far-reaching assumption. The truth is we don’t know that it isn’t significant. We encourage you to talk to a medical practitioner about what options there are regarding this finding.
If a tumor is established, would this been seen in a mammogram?
Older, more established tumors can be radiographically dense and therefore have a higher chance of being seen by a mammogram. However, there is no test that has 100% detection rate. On average, mammography will miss 1 in every 6 tumors.
If I’ve had annual mammograms and they were all negative, would it be okay if I don’t have any more? (Then I could just use thermography annually)
Understand that mammography’s biggest limitation as an effective screening tool is breast density. As we age, breast density diminishes and the effectiveness of mammography would possibly increase. Although you may have had a negative mammogram several years ago, your breast density may have changed in such a way that what was difficult to see previously is now easier to visualize. This would likely increase the effectiveness of detection of tumors possibly not seen thermographically.
How often should I have a mammogram?
Some prevention-minded doctors request that their patients have annual thermograms and to not allow more than 3-5 years between mammograms. Other medical doctors may still want to see a mammogram annually.
Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to look at all the data, talk to your doctor and decide what the best plan is for you. Breast thermography is NOT limited by breast density and while it does not replace any structural test, it offers the opportunity to detect changes at any stage of development (from the first year to when it is dense enough to be seen mammographically). See chart below.
Earlier detection may lead to earlier diagnosis and possibly more treatment options. Ideally, it would be best to optimize breast health and prevent the advancement of disease.
Brenda and Lynda Witt