Breast Thermography 101Sep 29, 2021 01:05PM ● By Taryn Kean
Since 1985, October has been associated with breast cancer awareness. Initially only lasting a week, the awareness campaign now continues for a month with its pink ribbons, empowering survivor stories and an increase in breast screenings of all modalities. While regrettably the dreaded statistic of, “One in eight women will get breast cancer,” is also part of the campaign, this is not a numerical absolute. In a group of eight women, one is not necessarily going to draw the short straw. Rather, over a general lifespan of 80 years there is a 12 percent overall chance of a woman developing breast cancer. The super-optimistic can view this as a seven in eight chance, or 88 percent, of never developing the disease.
There are controllable factors—healthy lifestyle, proper diet, healthy body mass index, regular exercise, non-smoking, reduced alcohol consumption and managed stress. There are also uncontrollable risk factors such as an increase in age and being female, the largest risk indicator for breast cancer, as men account for only about 2 percent of cases. Family or personal history of breast cancer, race (Caucasians in particular), long-term exposure to estrogen, either environmentally or due to early starting and late ending periods, are other contributing factors.
Medical thermography can assist with determining physiologic risk factors and detect deviations from a normal baseline very early. Our thermal fingerprint, or unique breast pattern, is developed after puberty, remaining stable and unchanged unless an evolving pathology is present. A baseline is established by two imaging sessions three months apart. A preliminary risk factor is assigned pending the three-month follow up that assures the patterns remain unchanged.
Changes or Suspicious Findings on Breast Thermograph
Vascular and lymphatic activity are identified as areas that are suspicious or potential markers for the existence or development of cancer. Thermography can also increase the accuracy of other tests by targeting specific areas to be examined. When these changes are seen early, thermography-assisted ultrasound or mammogram may lead to an earlier diagnosis and a better overall outcome.
Generally, there are five to eight years of cell doublings and growth for a tumor to be of sufficient size and density to be detected by a mammogram. Early positive findings with thermography may not yet show on conventional testing but allow for proactive and preemptive action. This information guides healthcare practitioners in determining the best course of treatment to reverse the process or monitor development for the earliest detection possible.
Normal (within normal limits) indicates a normal thermal profile with no thermal findings consistent with risk for disease or other developing pathology. Annual scans are recommended after a stable baseline has been established.
Non-Suspicious (at low risk) indicates low-grade thermal activity not suspicious for serious pathology and associated with benign changes. Annual scans are recommended after a stable baseline has been established, but more frequent follow-up may be clinically indicated. This doesn’t rule out existing non-active or encapsulated tumors.
Equivocal (at some risk) indicates thermal activity likely to represent benign changes such as inflammation, acute cysts or fibroadenoma, infection or even normal personal variation. Clinical correlation and/or additional testing is generally recommended.
Abnormal (at increased risk) indicates significant risk for existing or developing malignant breast disease. Benign pathology or personal variation is less likely. Clinical correlation, objective evaluation and additional testing is indicated. A follow-up thermal study in three months should be part of a comprehensive testing panel.
Suspicious (at high risk) indicates high risk of confirming malignant breast disease. Benign processes or personal variations are very unlikely. Urgent clinical correlation is indicated with a comprehensive panel of testing and evaluation. A follow-up thermal study in three months should be a part of this evaluation.
Radiation-free, noninvasive and painless breast thermography only takes a few minutes. Not restricted to the borders of the breasts, it encompasses a 360-degree view from the brachial plexus to below the breasts. Unlike conventional structural testing, thermography is not limited by the density of breast tissue or implants.
Risk assessment and early detection in breast health are the keys to being proactive, alerting individuals to their risk without putting them at risk.
Taryn Kean, CCT level III, is the owner of Southwest Medical Thermal Imaging & Ultrasound, LLC, with locations at 9200 Bonita Beach Rd., Ste. 213, in Bonita Springs, 7680 Cambridge Manor Pl., Ste. 100, in Ft. Myers and 1570 Colonial Blvd., Ste. A, in Ft. Myers. For more information, call 239-949-2011 or visit ThermalClinic.com.