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.