By Christine Horner, M.D., offered by Dr. Carla Garcia
Thermography is an infra-red picture of the body that measures heat and blood vessel patterns. It is a “physiological” test and has been the subject of over 800 published studies, which document its ability to pick up inflammation, infections, and functional concerns throughout the body that may not be otherwise evident. Studies show it can be particularly helpful for evaluating the health of the breasts, as the physiological changes identified by thermography are associated with an increased future risk of breast cancer.
Unlike all of the technologies that are currently available for evaluating the breasts (mammography, MRI and ultrasounds), thermography shines as a preventative tool rather than screening for breast cancer. Thermography is a physiological test that evaluates the health of the breast. It does not mine for cancer. The most exciting fact about thermography is that it is the only technology that can pick up abnormalities before they become cancer. Therefore, it is the only truly preventative technology. In lay terms, you can think of thermography as a thermometer that can show if your breasts are running a fever. When your breasts run a “fever,” they are inflamed, and research shows they have a significant increased risk of developing breast cancer in the future. The beauty of finding these changes so early is that simple diet and lifestyle improvements along with certain dietary supplements can reverse those patterns usually very quickly and stop the future progression to cancer.
Once a tumor forms, the findings on thermography can be variable. Sometimes we see very hot, angry looking patterns that are highly concerning. Other times, the patterns can look benign and may even appear cold if the cancer cells have started to die in the center of the tumor.
What we have learned about all the tests used for breast evaluation—mammography, MRI, US, and thermography—is that no test is perfect. None should be used as a standalone test. We have learned this the hard way by using mammography as the “gold standard” and standalone test for decades. Long-term studies have shown that the value of mammography has been highly overrated, and its drawbacks and shortcomings highly underrated. In fact, mammography has been shown to miss up to 50% of tumors, especially in women with dense breasts. Its ability to discern whether the problem it sees is actually a problem is even worse. It is an “anatomical” test that can (but doesn’t always) show problems after structural problems have occurred. When mammography identifies a “suspicious” area that requires a biopsy, those biopsies are found to be benign—or unnecessary—80% of the time! In addition, mammography is not recommended for women under age forty. The other tests can all miss tumors as well.
Research has concluded that multiple tests need to be done to obtain the best sensitivity (when a problem is present, it can be detected) and specificity (when a problem is detected, it actually is a problem). That’s why in addition to thermography, it is recommended that an anatomical test should also be done yearly—such as an ultrasound—along with physical examination. If there are any symptoms such as lumps, further investigation must always be done including a biopsy for a tissue diagnosis regardless of what any test—mammogram, thermogram, ultrasound or MRI—may or may not show.
If you are interested in learning about changes in your breasts before a serious problem develops and, in a stage, where these patterns are easily reversible with simple diet and lifestyle improvements along with certain dietary supplements, schedule annual thermograms.