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.