As we prepare for our next Thermography screening date on Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
, we're asking two good questions to help complete our understanding of Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging or Thermography.
Q. Why do I need to come back in three months for another breast study?
A. One of the first cancer facts that my breast-health guru Cheryl Chapman impressed upon me was that the average cancer cell takes about 100 days (3 months) to multiply. Therefore, a change in your breast health can be seen in as little as three months--with the right technology. Whereas common imaging such as CT, X-ray, Ultrasound and MRI look for changes in structure, Thermal Imaging detects the thermal emissions of the body's physiology, or function. Specific for breast health, a three-month interval is used in Thermal Imaging to establish your all-important baseline reading.
This relates to the period of time it takes for blood vessels to show change. Once a cancerous tumor reaches a critical size (about the size of a grain of sugar), it has the ability to cause angiogenesis
. This means the cancer cell releases chemical signals to cause new blood vessels to grow, feeding the tumor. Thermal Imaging easily shows increases and decreases in blood flow.
With respect to Thermography screening, a period of time less than three months may miss significant change, as can a period of time much more than three months miss significant change that may have already taken place. There is simply no substitute for establishing an accurate baseline. A single study cannot do this.
This baseline represents your unique thermal fingerprint, which will only be altered by developing pathology, or more happily, improvements in your breast health! Side bar: it's very cool that improvements in breast health can be charted with Thermography. I've seen it in my own scans.
Check this out. These images were taken approximately one week to ten days apart at West Coast Thermography in the San Diego area. This woman had invasive ductal carcinoma. The imaging began with the top left image taken on 3/16/12, and continued right until the last image on the bottom right was taken on 5/8/12. What a short period of time to see so much change, and what a relief for her to see her progress!
Clearly, a baseline cannot be established unless you know your normal pattern. By comparing two studies three months apart doctors are able to judge if your breast physiology is stable and suitable to be used as your normal baseline.
Q. Is thermal imaging just for older women who would normally get a mammogram?
A. Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging is especially appropriate for younger women between 30 & 50 whose denser breast tissue makes it more difficult for mammography to pick up suspicious lesions. This test can provide a 'clinical marker' to the doctor or mammographer that a specific area of the breast needs particularly close examination.
Breast cancers tend to grow significantly faster in younger women under 50:
Source: Cancer 71:3547-3551, 1993
||AVERAGE TUMOR DOUBLING TIME
|Age 50 - 70
|Over age 70
The faster a malignant tumor grows, the more Infrared radiation it generates. For younger women in particular, results from thermographic screening can lead to earlier detection and, ultimately, longer life.
Lateral views are taken to compare thermal symmetry
This test is designed to improve chances for detecting fast-growing, active tumors in the intervals between mammographic screenings or when mammography is not indicated by screening guidelines for women under 50 years of age.
All patients thermograms (breast images) are kept on record for the doctors to compare, and form a baseline for all future routine evaluations.
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