Breast thermography is called many terms, including:[1- 4]
Thermographic screening of the breast
Thermal imaging of the breast
Infrared imaging of the breast
Digital infrared imaging (DII) of the breast
Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) of the breast
Thermography of the breast is a painless, non-invasive, screening and diagnostic procedure, involving imaging and computer analysis of the varying amounts of infrared radiation produced by different areas of breast tissue.[1, 2, 9] Unlike mammography, breast thermography does not involve compression of the breast or exposure to radiation.
In breast thermography, computer images are taken of the breasts in a cool, temperature-controlled examination room. [3, 4] The image generated is called a thermogram.
Imaging in breast thermography is based on the response of blood vessels in breast tissue to changes in temperature outside the breast and the resulting amount of infrared radiation produced by the breast.[2, 4] In blood vessels nourishing normal breast tissue, the flow of blood is reduced as a response to cool air outside the breast, and a normal amount of infrared radiation is produced by the breast.
In contrast, the flow of blood in either more abundant or more dilated blood vessels leading to areas of abnormality (including breast tumors) in the breast may be unaffected by the cool air of the temperature- controlled examination room. [2, 4, 9] Therefore, a higher amount of infrared radiation is produced by a region of the breast having more blood vessels or more dilated blood vessels, and the imaging may display a "hot spot" in the breast.
The thermal pattern (or "map") of a womans breasts in a thermogram is unique for her. Thermal patterns of healthy breasts in thermograms usually look and remain symmetrical and consistent. If new blood vessels develop in breast tissue, as is the case in breasts containing tumors or regions affected by other types of breast disease, the thermal patterns on a thermogram may change.
Persistently abnormal breast thermograms mean that the patients have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Thermography can detect breast abnormalities, including tumors, up to 10 years before that of other imaging methods.[1, 2] Sensitivity (i.e., accuracy in detecting breast abnormalities by the method) of breast thermography is estimated at 90%.[1, 2, 9]
The mainstream medical community, however, does not utilize breast thermography as a stand-alone technique in either screening for degree of risk of developing or detecting the current presence of breast cancer. In other words, the mainstream medical community does not consider breast thermography as a substitute for or alternative to mammography.
On the other hand, the FDA has approved breast thermography as an adjunctive method (i.e., technique used in addition to mammography) for screening breast cancer.[2, 6] Therefore, the recommended approach including thermography involves a combination of clinical breast examination (CBE), thermography, and mammography.
In patients for whom a combination of CBE, thermography, and mammography is utilized, 95% of early-stage breast cancers can be detected.[2, 9] Detection of breast cancer at an early stage, rather than at a more advanced stage (i.e., when the cancer has spread farther), has been estimated to increase the rate of long-term survival by up to 60%.
Furthermore, breast thermography is suitable for detecting abnormalities in women of all ages, especially women under 50 years of age, who often have relatively dense breast tissue. [1, 7, 8] Furthermore, breast thermography is an appropriate screening method for the following types of women:[7-9]
Who are pregnant
Who are nursing their children
With breast implants
With scarring from previous surgery of the breast
With fibrocystic breast disease
Health insurance coverage for breast thermography varies. If you are considering having breast thermography, check with your health insurance provider to determine whether the procedure is covered by your policy.
1. Breast thermography and early breast cancer detection. Accessed at www.breastthermography.com/breast_thermography_mf.htm.
2. W.C. Amalu. A review of breast thermography. 1998. Accessed at www.breastthermography.com/infared_imaging_review_mf.htm.
3. The procedure. Accessed at www.breastimaginginc.com.
4. Medicine mum on mammography: Do the math think thermography.
10/23/200. AlternativeMedicine.com. 10/23/2000. Accessed at www.mercola.com.
5. Breast health. Accessed at www.breastimaginginc.com.
6. Frequently asked questions. Accessed at
7. Breast imaging. Accessed at www.breastimaginginc.com.
8. Who can benefit. Accessed at www.breastimaginginc.com.
9. P. Getson. A new tool in the fight against breast cancer. Thermographic Diagnostic Imaging.