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Development of the Breast Thermography technique in History

Cancer is a disease with the highest number of patients treated and currently, there are an estimated 2.6 million breast cancer survivors, but the National Cancer Institute estimated there would be as many as 226,870 women diagnosed. This makes it essential to have a screening strategy that can provide early detection. The FDA approves of mammograms for breast cancer detection but there are other tests that can help the early detection of cancer including breast cancer.

Approved Cancer Testing

The FDA approved other screening tools for early detection of cancer with MRI and ultrasounds and later approved in combination with mammograms ultrasound, thermography, and CT scans. Prior to the approval of MRI or ultrasounds for detection of cancer thermography for breast cancer showed validly in being able to provide accurate results in breast imaging testing. The FDA approved thermography referred to as infrared digital imaging as a tool for the breast that is able to provide an image showing differences in breast tissue based on temperature.

Pre-2000 Thermography History

One of the first papers submitted about thermography was written by Dr. Ray Lawson in 1956. This paper was entitled Implications of Surface Temperatures in the Diagnosis of Breast Cancer. The paper involved 26 women with breast cancer that showed the temperature in the area of the tumor of the ipsilateral areola was higher than surrounding breast tissue. During this time period, there was no other screening procedure other than clinical examination. Mammography was being researched at the same time Dr. Lawson was researching thermography.

In 1972 Dr. Harold Lsard published a paper about the accuracy of mammograms and thermograms both used together and separately. This was a 4-year study conducted between 1967 and 1970 with the screening of 10,055 women. This study showed in women with symptoms using clinical breast examinations, mammograms and thermograms the groups were correctly diagnosed 82 %, 85 %, and 72 %. Then when mammography and thermography were used together the accuracy of diagnosis increased from 85 % to 92 %. Now in 1972, mammogram used alone was 83 % accurate and thermography alone was 61 % accurate. Though used in combination it rated the highest percentage of accuracy.

Studies from the 1990’s into the 2000’s

The studies continued with thermography and with technology the testing advanced to become more accurate in capturing heat related images of breast skin and tissue. It is now believed that thermal image can detect carcinogenic changes and the increased blood flow may be able to be seen 5 to 10 years before the development of a lesion that is detectable. One study conducted by Jonathan F. Head of Medical Thermal Diagnostics, Baton Rouge in 2000 researched three groups from a study that began in 1973 of patients who used thermography.

This study conducted in 1973 was conducted at the Elliott Mastology Center and the patients had thermography testing at least one year prior to diagnosis of breast cancer. There were three groups in this study with group 1 having abnormal thermograms at 88 %, of 126 women who later died. Group 2 involved 100 women diagnosed with breast cancer at 65 %. Group 3 showed 28 % of women with benign mastopathies.

Thermography continues to advance in technology and techniques with developments and combined with mammograms, ultrasounds and MRI testing the accuracy of early breast cancer detection has increased. Thermography is not ready for use as a singular tool for detecting breast cancer, but with technology advances, it is a valuable tool that may reach a point where it can be used as the main tool to detect cancer.

This is a test that does not involve radiation and is noninvasive making it a test reliable enough to be used in between mammograms where possible breast cancer has been diagnosed.

Get to know how breast thermography works here.

Breast Cancer Technology Overview

Cancer is the leading cause of deaths all over the world. Breast cancer is the number two killer of women in the United States followed by Lung Cancer. In the United States in 2009 there were an estimated 40,610 people, both men, and women that were believed would die from breast cancer. The data shows that patients that survive cancer have an early diagnosis at stage 0 or stage 1 at 98 % over 10 years. This is where technology for early cancer detection is improving testing.

Breast Cancer Technology

There are new technologies in development for the early detection of breast cancer and out of 23 new technologies; only ten have been approved so far by the FDA. Three of these approved are film mammography, digital mammography, and computer aided detection. There are other tools approved but not recommended for singular use but in combination with other testing tools. Positron emission tomography (PET) is one of the approved tools to monitor patient response to treatment for breast cancer. Though this is not a tool to be used for diagnosis or screening for breast cancer.

Approval by the FDA does not mean the tool used for testing is infallible or produces accurate and early testing results in every case. The agency also does not back claims made by manufacturers of these testing devices.

These are the top five approved by the FDA

  • Screen-film mammography was approved by the FDA in 1969, which is an x-ray through the breast tissue that shows denser tissue that is associated with cancer. This dense tissue will appear on the screen-film as white areas.
  • Sonography was approved by the FDA in 1977 as a noninvasive handheld device that reflects sound waves that construct an image that can show abnormalities. This known more commonly by the name ultrasound and can be used in combination with mammograms.
  • Thermography was approved by the FDA in 1982 and uses an infrared digital camera to measure the heat from breast tissue and surface temperature. Higher tissue temperatures are associated with increased vascularities that may be a blood supply to tumors. This testing is used in combination with mammograms.
  • Computer aided detection was FDA approved in 1998 for clinical screening. This tool uses computer algorithms that can show areas on mammograms that should be reviewed by a radiologist.
  • Digital mammography is a digital format for mammograms instead of using film and was approved by the FDA in 2000 to screen for breast cancer.

More Types of Testing Technology

The MRI is used in testing for diagnosing cancer and can create 2 and 3D images. This is a technology that uses magnetic quality imaging by a magnetic field and radio waves to create the image. This testing is close to 100 % in cases of invasive cancer and has a higher sensitivity rate than mammograms. This is a tool used most often for diagnosis of familial and genetic breast cancers.

  • Electronic palpation is a tool used that applies sensors to record resistance of tissues if pressure is applied to develop density maps used in detecting lumps in the breast. This is used in place of a manual clinical breast examination and can measure the size of lesions.
  • Elastography is a tool that maps the breast tissue for mechanical properties and can recognize abnormal tissue. This is a mechanical vibration with imaging similar to an ultrasound in its technology.
  • Diffraction enhanced imaging (DEI) is a modification of mammography but is in the early stages of development. This tool has an increased radiographic contrast that uses a silicon crystal between the patient and film or digital detector so the crystal diffracts certain wavelengths of an x-ray to produce two images. This can show different density and possibly provide more detail to detect tumors in the breast tissue.

Ultrasound Types

There are different types of ultrasounds that can be useful in early detection of breast cancer and they include:

  • Ultrasonography can be referred to as sonommography that can be used to test for abnormal breast tissue results after a mammogram is conducted. This test is done using a handheld device called a transducer. Because of the use of the handheld device to move around the breast, it is possible to miss parts of the breast. The transducer sends an image to a screen and must be retained by the technologist to be read.
  • Mode B ultrasounds is an ultrasound that uses waves that bounce off of the breast tissue creating an image of the breast and abnormalities are identified by the brightness in the image. This type of ultrasound can detect palpable masses that mammograms cannot detect. The Mode B ultrasound is often used to guide biopsies since it is a real time imaging tool. This kind of ultrasound is safe for use on women that are pregnant or nursing that requires breast cancer testing because it does not produce radiation.

Early Detection Guidelines for Breast Cancer

All women should have regular self-breast health checks and this should be taken to the next step for some women that are at a high risk. This step will include clinical examinations and testing for early detection of breast cancer. Women should have annual clinical exams and tests like thermography screening.

Who May Be at a Risk?

There are women who may be at an average risk for breast cancer who doesn’t have a history of this kind of cancer personally but has a family history of breast cancer. Then there are women with a genetic mutation like BRCA1 or BRAC2 that increases the risk of breast cancer. Having a family history of breast cancer includes the woman’s mother or sister diagnosed at a younger age. A woman with a personal history of ductal carcinoma in situ, which is a non-invasive breast cancer starting in the milk ducts.

This type of cancer may be referred to as stage 0 or pre-invasive breast carcinoma. Women that have had lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) which are abnormal cells that grow in the lobules of the breast. BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are breast cancer genes 1 and 2 that are a gene mutation that is inherited, which can increase the risk of breast cancer. Women that have a history of invasive breast cancer or atypical hyperplasia, which are rapidly growing cells that appear abnormal under microscopic conditions. Women who between ages 10 and 30 have undergone radiation treatment.

Guidelines for Women at Risk of Breast Cancer

The women that have a risk of the disease there are medical guidelines to catch the possible progression of breast cancer at the earliest point. This will include clinical physical examination, a mammogram, thermal imaging testing and possible ultrasound. Medical guidelines include:

  • BRCA 1 and BRCA 2: Women at risk for this gene mutation because of a family history should be tested between ages 25 and 29. This includes mammograms annually and MIR, other testing including infrared imaging and ultrasounds every six to twelve months.
  • LCIS: Women diagnosed with LCIS should have a clinical breast exam, mammogram, MRI and can include thermal imaging starting at age 30 every six to twelve months.
  • Atypical Hyperplasia: Women with this diagnosis at age 30 should discuss testing with their physician every six to twelve months.
  • Personal history of Breast Cancer: Women with a personal history of breast cancer should have annual mammograms and up to four times a year they should have other testing like infrared imaging and ultrasounds for the first 5 years after treatment ends.
  • DCIS: Women diagnosed with DCIS should have annual mammograms and other kinds of testing up to four times a year for the first 5 years after treatment ends.

Women with Average to Low Risk

  • Ages 40 – 44: Start screening annually with a mammogram.
  • 55 and older: At these ages, women should have an annual mammogram.