What is thermography:
Thermography imaging uses an infrared camera for graphic mapping of superficial heat emitted from the areas of the body being imaged. It was approved by the FDA in 1982 as an adjunctive technology. At Gateway, we use thermography most often as a risk assessment tool for breast health in women, although imaging can be performed on any part of the body or the entire body.
Thermography measures heat, which, when assessed in the body, is a function of the superficial circulation. Circulation is affected through the formation of new blood cells, vassal dilation, and inflammation. Though each of these three factors can be a sign of cancer or pre-cancer, they are not taken as stand-alone data in assessing risk.
What thermography is not:
Thermography does not diagnose. It is used as a tool for risk assessment, rather than “breast cancer screening.” Though it is not a replacement for mammography, it does detect different types of physiological activity in the body. Information received from each of these technologies is used differently. Thermography does not scan for metastasis, look at the skin, and or see into body cavities and organs.
It is not looking for a structure (or lump) but looking for abnormal heat patterns and abnormal vascularity patterns indicating a physiological malfunction. This is how a thermogram can detect a problem in progress or starting, years before it may become a lump big enough to be found by other methods.
It is important to note that thermography, mammography and other imaging technologies do not often miss something; they simply cannot detect everything.
Benefits of thermography:
Thermography is a non-invasive, no pain, no contact, no radiation technology that provides information on the vascular and cellular activity of the area being imaged. Because there is no radiation and no negative side-effects, it can be performed as often as needed for monitoring purposes.
One of the most important benefits of thermography is that it can be used as a more preventative strategy to breast health because it can detect early signs of abnormal activity in the breast tissue. It is also a useful tool for monitoring the progress and effectiveness of treatments.
We often get asked about the difference between thermography and mammography: thermography is physiological/functional imaging that provides information about vascular and cellular activity, whereas mammography is mostly anatomical (similar to an MRI).
Who it’s for:
Breast cancer is often more aggressive in younger women. Ideally, breast thermography would be performed early in a woman’s life – as early as their first menstrual cycle, or by age 20 – in order to have a base from which to monitor. It should be done regularly so that any concerns are caught early (every 1-2 years depending on other risk factors, like family history). Following this recommendation allows for more preventative and proactive approaches to breast health, making a mammogram more of a choice versus a necessity, later in life.
Breast thermography is also especially helpful for women who have smaller breasts, implants, mastectomies, dense breast tissue, or are pregnant or lactating/breast feeding.
How it works:
Thermography is graded on a scale of TH1-5. A thermal grading of TH3 and above is considered higher risk. When analyzing the images, we look at them in grayscale and color, in order to create a more complete assessment. Grayscale looks at the vascular markings and lymphatic vessels, while color images map the temperature zones. We are looking for information on:
- Level of tissue metabolism (the faster something is metabolizing, the more heat it produces)
- Vascularization (how much vascularity there is in the breast, gives an idea of activity going on in the tissue)
- Vascular dilation (dilated veins produce more heat)
- Simple consent and questionnaire
- Consult with thermography technician about personal and family health history, any current concerns, description of what thermography is, and walk-through of the imaging process
- 12-15 minutes of acclimation to imaging room
- 5-7 images (for breast only)
- Visual examination and tips for self-exams
- Check out
- Follow up consult to review results in 1-2 weeks
We believe that every woman should get a breast thermogram! Call to schedule yours today: (970) 532-2755