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Medical Thermography: A Safe and Effective Tool for Breast Scanning

There are several tests used by medical practitioners to screen for breast cancer. Mammography and ultrasound are two widely accepted imaging techniques used in Canada. Thirty years ago, thermography was used to screen for breast cancer, however the results were highly variable. Due to the immense development of computer technology and the continued study of thermography over the last 25 years, thermography has re-established its reputation and is used as “first-line” breast screening in Europe, Australia and Japan, and is now gaining recognition in North America.

thermography-imageThe thermographic examination uses an infrared camera, which detects physiological changes in breast tissue. The resulting image is called a thermogram. The study and interpretation of that image is called thermography. The infrared camera measures increased or decreased levels of infrared (heat) emitted from the body. Long before a tumour is formed that can be visualized, there are metabolic changes that occur in cancerous cells. Thermography detects these changes by measuring abnormal heat distribution patterns in breast tissue.

Mammograms show physical changes in the breast and the location of a mass. If a mass shows up, ultrasound is used to follow-up to explore the shape and edges of the breast mass, which suggests whether it is benign or malignant. As mentioned earlier, thermography measures physiological function of breast tissue through heat changes. The changes are graded and an ultrasound may be recommended for follow-up. Each test measures completely different aspects, so one cannot substitute one for another. For example, some slow-growing, non-aggressive tumours can only be detected by mammography or ultrasound, while aggressive, rapidly growing tumours are better detected by thermography. In any case, only a biopsy or lumpectomy can reveal a definitive diagnosis.

Recent studies at Ville Marie Breast Centre in Montreal have shown the sensitivity rate for detecting breast cancer is highest (96%) when a combination of self-breast exam, mammography, ultrasound and thermography is used.

There are many advantages thermography offers. It can detect cancerous changes 5-8 years before a mammogram will. Also, benign breast disease and fibroadenomas are identified. Thermography does not emit any form of ionizing radiation (mammogram) or sound waves (ultrasound) into the tissue. Because of its safety, it is a great follow-up tool to monitor effects of therapy and treatment of many types of breast diseases.

All diagnostic tests have limitations. The sensitivity rate of Thermography alone is 86%, with a false positive rate of 10% (results suggest disease is present when there is none). Mammograms have an accuracy of about 86% but 25% show false positives and 20-40% show false negatives (missed tumours). Mammograms can be painful as the breast is compressed (up to 42 lbs. of pressure) during the procedure, and the breast tissue is exposed to radiation, which is one known and undisputable cause of cancers.

Thermography is currently available in Toronto at West End Holistic Centre, and at Ville Marie Breast Centre (a division of Ville Marie Medical and Women’s Health Centre) in Montreal. To make this valuable screening tool more accessible for women in the Georgian Bay area, MedTherm Clinical Outreach Program, a division of Medical Thermography International, Inc. has agreed to do thermography clinics at Horizon Therapy Centre. The next Thermography clinic in Owen Sound is on September 29, 2013. The cost is: $250+HST. Bring a friend who is new to Medical Thermography International and you both save 15%. Visit  http://www.medthermonline.com or call my office at 519-376-9696 to book an appointment.