If having thermography imaging done it is a medical procedure in combination with other breast examination testing. This testing is non-invasive and completely painless without any form of radiation unlike some other types of testing. Because the infrared testing does not use radiation it is safe for women who are either pregnant or nursing and who have had surgical procedures like biopsies, implants or breast reductions. The testing can also be done during the menstrual cycle and this will have no effect on the results of the test. This is a thorough process that can provide early detection and monitor the progress of breast cancer. Though unlike some other testing there is a more involved procedure and pre-examination requirements.
The first step will be the intake form that will include previous testing, pain diagrams, surgeries, and daily life questions to provide pertinent information for the testing assessment.
The Testing Procedure
When going for thermography testing the procedure begins with removing clothing from the waist up and then a visual inspection of the breasts. The person undergoing the test will be left for about 15 minutes for the breast and body skin temperature to reach. The temperature of this room that is temperature controlled. Then the person having this test will be positioned in front of the machine that will do the infrared imaging with the arms positioned over the head. The imaging will be done on the surfaces of the breasts, the upper chest, and underarms.
Pre-Examination Infrared Imaging Instructions
Before having thermography imaging testing done there are instructions that must be adhered to for the results to be accurate. Some are common sense such as not using cream, oil, lotions or powders and not shaving on the day of the exam. Then there are other pre-testing rules that must be followed for good test results.
- This testing should not take place for at least 4 weeks after a biopsy of the breast, no matter whether it is a fine needle or core biopsy.
- After a lumpectomy or surgical biopsy thermogram testing should not be done for at least 8 weeks.
- Any medical procedures done within the past 12 weeks should be made known prior to scheduling the thermography testing.
- Sunbathing breasts should not be done for at least 5 days before testing is done.
- Chiropractic, TENS, electronic muscle stimulation and physical therapy should not be done for at least 24 hours prior to the testing.
- Steam rooms and saunas should not be used at least 24 hours prior to testing.
- Mothers that nurse should not nurse at least an hour prior to the infrared testing.
- Bathing should not be done prior to the test and showering should not be done within an hour of the test.
Following Instructions is essential to ensure the infrared testing has accurate results. Since any of the items listed that should not be done could change the test results giving either a false reading or a negative reading.
Thermography might be a name that isn’t recognized since may also be referred to more commonly as thermal imaging that uses a special camera to measure the breast surface skin temperature. This type of screening is non-invasive and involves no radiation like other types of mammograms. This painless state of the art test is used as a part of an early breast disease detection program. In women under 50, it can be extremely useful testing, since mammography may not have satisfactory results until after this age. The reason this test is important is that breast thermography is a way to detect breast disease early. Detection can be earlier using this form of testing than is possible through mammography, doctor examinations or self-examination. It can detect subtle physiologic changes that maybe an infection, vascular disease, fibrocystic disease or cancer.
Traditional Methods and Principles of Thermography
Currently the regular methods of detecting the signs of breast cancer primarily consist of a physical examination and mammography. The other further testing that may be used are ultrasounds and the MRI that can detect if a tumor is present. The use of digital infrared imaging is based on a different principle so it can detect changes another testing may not recognize. These are changes other testing is unable to see since this kind of imaging can detect increased blood vessel circulation and metabolic changes or thermal signs. This testing is able to detect the metabolic activity and vascular circulation in precancerous tissue and developing breast cancer. Since it is generally a higher temperature than normal breast tissue and it can detect tumors that are not large enough to be detected by a physical examination.
This testing known as thermography is based on two principles:
- Metabolism and blood flow increases result in skin temperature rising.
- Cancer cells grow and multiply fast and metabolism is higher in a cancer tumor.
Studies and the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society does not recommend thermography alone even though it has been available for decades. But they do in combination with traditional methods of screening. One reason for this decision by the cancer society is there have been no studies that have shown it is a tool that can detect breast cancer early. Thermography is unable to find deeper cancers in the breast and small cancers. Researchers are working to improve new versions of the testing with this tool to improve its usefulness and accuracy that will make it an invaluable tool.
Thermography is an infrared imaging that can detect changes in breast tissue and produce a high-resolution image of the breast skin temperature. The image can then be analyzed using thermal vascular mapping for skin temperature and changes, even the slightest change. This is testing that has guidelines with some specific protocols in place. It also has some limitations in certain situations that can dictate the necessity for the infrared testing and how it can benefit the overall treatment plan.
Infrared Imaging Indications
In cases that infrared imaging used there are guidelines and with indications it can assess changes in breast tissue early. The indications include:
- The vasomotor mapping of breast skin temperature and skin vascular patterning.
- Physiologic response of breast tissue monitoring.
- Monitoring of breast temperature and vascular patterning for post mastectomy, post breast reconstruction, fibrocystic disease, or because of radiation concerns.
- The infrared imaging can be used in combination with radiation therapy and chemotherapy as a way to monitor.
Contraindications are situations that the procedure should not be used or caution should be used if the testing is done. This can include patients using the infrared imaging as the only method of diagnosing, and with mastectomy patients, it can be a unique situation. In cases where full consent cannot be obtained protocols must be in place for the procedure to take place.
One limitation this kind of testing in rare cases it is possible a false negative can result. Generally, it is in cases where the issue is deeper within the tissue. Another way a false negative can exist is if symmetric, bilateral pathologies co-exist.
Avoiding Problems and Getting Accurate Results
Prior to this testing to make certain it is accurate there are some rules that should be followed. These are similar to other types of testing that have certain restrictions to ensure accurate results including not using creams, lotions or powders the day of the exam. The person having the infrared imaging should not smoke for at least four hours before the test. Also, deodorants should be avoided and shaving under arms the day of the testing. The technician should be made aware of any medications, especially the use of beta blockers.
The testing is assessed using criteria other than the imaging, including age, weight, points are added for age at pregnancy, the number of years on birth control and if hormones have been taken.