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Thermography as an Adjunct to Mammography: Non-Invasive Procedure Offers Early Detection

Apr 27, 2012 01:07PM ● By Taryn Kean and Linda Sechrist

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012, approximately 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women. With the incidence of breast cancer on the rise and prevention now considered so vital, women are educating themselves about the option of including a thermogram in their annual check-up. An underutilized tool for risk assessment, this non-invasive, radiation-free clinical procedure measures a key indicator of health: thermal (heat) emissions emanating from the body.

Unique as a test of physiology and function, rather than anatomy and structure, digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) shows thermal abnormalities present in the body. Available in the United States since the 1960s, it was approved in 1982 as an adjunct to mammography and uses highly sensitive, state-of-the-art infrared cameras and sophisticated computers. The American College of Clinical Thermology (ACCT) is responsible for training technicians and physicians, providing accreditation for practitioners and promoting scientific research.

Temperature Asymmetries Equal Dysfunction

A healthy body is thermally symmetrical, and left and right breasts should share the same temperatures and temperature patterns. DITI measures skin surface temperatures with specialized infrared detectors that are graphically displayed on a computer screen in a colorized image called a thermograph. With the help of sophisticated computer software, a reviewing physician visually interprets and determines whether or not a temperature differential, or asymmetry, is clinically significant or indicative of an underlying pathology.

Early DITI Detection Can Save Lives

An invaluable tool in the early detection of breast cancer and other breast disorders, DITI detects and monitors abnormal physiology and the establishment of risk factors for the development or existence of cancer. Unlike other standard diagnostic testing for breast disease, it is not limited to the area of tissue compressed between plates. All angles of the breast are imaged, including the most likely locations for vascular and lymphatic activity, which are indicators of developing pathology; where the neck joins the collarbone, where the arm connects to the shoulder; and the area of skin just below the breast.

Kimberly Lemons, owner of Suncoast Thermal Imaging, in Cape Coral, had a family history of breast cancer, so she scheduled a mammogram every year until she was diagnosed with the disease. “In-between mammograms, I found the tumor and went to see a nutritionist, who told me about thermography,” says Lemons. “I believe now that if I had been having thermograms of my fibrocystic breasts, my tumor would have been detected before I found it.”

Angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, is an important prognostic indicator in early-stage breast carcinoma, according to the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The development of these vessels to “feed” the growth of a tumor emits heat-generating nitric oxide as a byproduct, easily detected by DITI as a thermal asymmetry or abnormality. The heat generated by Lemons’ tumor and its feeding vessels would have shown up on a thermogram, which can detect changes years before standard mammograms. Early detection helps ensure early intervention and offers better treatment opportunities and outcomes.

Once she was cancer-free, Lemons became a certified thermographer and purchased DITI equipment to offer early detection to other women. She also performs full body scans to detect inflammation in other areas of the body. “The reviewing physician has determined such things as a dysfunctional thyroid, inflammation due to silicone leaking from a breast augmentation, and internal bleeding unrelated to the progress of an individual’s knee surgery,” she advises.

A Breast “Fingerprint”

Every woman has her own unique breast thermal “fingerprint,” and only developing pathology—disease, infection or a malignancy—is capable of effecting a change to this unique pattern. To determine the breasts’ fingerprints and establish a baseline for future comparison, two DITI studies must be done three months apart. If there is no change in the temperature differentials and patterns, the normal state for a particular woman has been established. Studies are archived for annual comparison.

Thermography is also a valuable tool in preventive health care, with applications in stroke screening, because it can determine arterial inflammation and assess pulmonary and cardiac function. The only method available to “visualize” pain and pathology, it is a useful aid in the diagnosis of reflex sympathetic dystrophy, nerve damage, fibromyalgia and unexplained pain.

Taryn Kean is an ACCT Level 3 thermographer and the owner of Southwest Medical Thermal Imaging, 9148 Bonita Beach Rd., Ste. 202, Bonita Springs. For information or appointments, call 239-949-2011 or visit

Suncoast Thermal Imaging, LLC, 1718 Cape Coral Pkwy. E., Ste. 3, Cape Coral. For information or appointments, call 239-540-1002.

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