What is the purpose of Breast Thermography?
Breast Thermography is tool that is used to assess the health of breast tissue by measuring local temperature changes. Elevated temperature findings can suggest an increased risk of unhealthy breast tissue as increased blood flow and inflammation in the area generate excess heat compared to normal tissue. This creates a temperature change in the overlying skin by 1 – 3 degrees Celsius, thereby allowing thermography to determine what is happening in deeper breast tissue by measuring skin temperature. Some research estimates that abnormal tissue changes begin generating heat that can be measured up to five years before breast tissue health concerns arise, suggesting thermography is a highly valuable tool in the field of breast tissue change detection.
Breast Thermography cannot provide a definitive diagnosis of the presence or absence of a breast disorder; however, an abnormal finding could prompt further exploration of the area in question (i.e. further testing or examination) – as suggested or determined by your naturopathic doctor or medical doctor.
What is the difference between Digital Infrared Camera Thermography and Breast Thermography?
Both technologies are excellent assessment aids that are safe and non-invasive (i.e. no pressure, no ionizing radiation exposure); however there are factors that distinguish them.
A Digital Infrared Camera provides a static image of the breast (like taking a picture of a person at a given moment in time), producing an image that shows temperature fluctuations in the breast – this gives the vital information described above that reflects the health of breast tissue.
also gives a static image of the breast, although it is measured using a temperature probe that lightly contacts the skin rather than using a camera
also gives a second “cold challenge” image to further confirm any changes that are seen, thus providing a functional assessment in addition the static one (please note, the cold challenge is described in further detail below)
also measures other areas of the body to provide:
health information about other tissues related to the breasts (i.e. lymph nodes, teeth, and common organs of metastasis like the liver and lungs). This gives a fuller picture of breast health than just assessing breast tissue alone
general health information about organs, glands, and sinuses to assess general body health
By assessing the breast tissue in a static and functional way, and by assessing related body areas, Thermography provides the broadest possible picture of breast health.
Does Thermography replace mammography and other assessments?
Absolutely not. Thermography measures temperature changes in breast tissue to provide valuable information as discussed above. Other assessments do the following:
Mammography: used to detect changes in breast tissue density, therefore has potential to directly detect a mass
Breast Examination: also used to detect changes in breast tissue, although not as accurately as mammography
Biopsy: allows definitive assessment of a suspected breast mass by looking at cells under a microscope
Ultrasound: allows differentiation of a fluid-filled cyst versus a solid mass
Thermography is excellent to use as a screening tool to assess breast health. If abnormal findings are detected it suggests possible unhealthy tissue, which should then be followed up on as mentioned above.
Who might benefit from Breast Thermography?
Any female patient* might benefit from Thermography as it helps to assess breast health, as well as organ health in general. Specific patient demographics include:
women below the age of 50 who would like a more thorough breast assessment than physical breast exam alone (mammograms are not typically recommended until after age 50 due to the potential dangers of ionizing radiation)
women 50 years and older who would like more frequent breast assessment than that provided by routine mammography
women with increased risk of breast cancer (e.g. with a strong family history, BRCA genes, etc.) who wish to have the most thorough assessment possible
women with current breast cancer who wish to track tissue changes in response to treatment
women with past breast cancer who wish to track tissue changes more regularly to assess ongoing breast tissue health
Some studies have suggested that using a combination of physical breast exam, screening mammography, and screening Thermography affords the greatest rate of breast health assessment versus using any one of them alone.
*please note that men with over-developed breast tissue may also benefit due to increased risk of breast tissue abnormalities
Please read the information in our Regulation Thermography article to learn more about the testing procedure and rationale. Regulation Thermography is used to scan the entire body, not just the breast tissue, to give us valuable information about an individual's overall health.
The cost of a thermography report ranges from $190 to $250.