Doctors agree, the earlier cancer is detected, the better the chance of survival. Breast thermography can aid in the early detection of change in the breasts years before a tumor can be seen with traditional screening methods. This is due to the fact that thermography is a test of physiology, how the breast works. Is it functioning properly? A traditional screening method such as mammography is a test of anatomy, looking for a structure, a lesion or tumor. Tumors takes years to grow, and in medicine physiology precedes anatomy. Meaning, the breast will malfunction before a tumor has formed.
Thermography can aid in the assessment of various dysfunctions, diseases, and other concerns in the breasts to include:
- Breast Cancer
- Fibrocystic Breast Condition
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women in the US will experience a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. There are over 20,000 cases of breast cancer each year in women between the ages of 20-40. When cancer occurs in younger woman it is usually a much more aggressive form, and less likely to respond to treatment. Currently, there is no routine screening method recommended for women under the age of forty, thermography fills this void. When used as part of an early detection program it gives a baseline for breast health, and provides a clinical marker for women of any age.
The client above was diagnosed with a 2.4 cm tumor behind the right nipple (retroareolar carcinoma) following her thermography screening. She had several mammograms prior that did not detect this tumor. According to cancer.gov, mammography misses up to 20% of tumors overall, and statistically is ineffective in younger women, especially those with dense breast tissue.
Fibrocystic Breast Condition
It is estimated that over half of all women will experience fibrocystic breasts at some time in their lives, making it a very common condition. It is a benign (noncancerous) condition characterized by round lumps filled with fluid that move freely within the breast tissue and generally expand and shrink with the onset and end of the menstrual cycle. This breast condition is most commonly found in women in their 20s to 50s, and is most pronounced in women during their 40s. Common symptoms include tenderness and discomfort, as well as more noticeable lumps which are usually present the week before menstruation begins. A fibrocystic condition is an example of a physiological change within the body in relationship to a hormonal imbalance that thermography can detect.
The images above are two examples of fibrocystic breast conditions. When there is an excess of estrogen in the body, referred to as estrogen dominance, it flows into different tissues of the body, including the breasts creating a fibrocystic breast condition. This is seen and describe as “leopard spots” on a thermography scan.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
Inflammatory breast cancer is a very aggressive disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. Although IBC is rare, accounting for 1-5% of all breast cancers diagnosed in the US, it progresses rapidly, often in a matter of weeks or months. Its aggressive nature makes early detection critical. IBC is different than other forms of breast cancer, and it is difficult to diagnose. There is usually no lump that can be felt during physical examination, or detected with mammography or by ultrasound, and it is often mistaken for infection.
Signs of IBC:
- Enlargement in one breast
- Bruised or pinkish-red appearance
- Heat radiating from the breast
- Dimpling on the surface of the skin
- Inverted nipple
- Pain or tenderness
- Enlarged lymph nodes around the area of the breast, under the arm or above the collar bone
The images above are of a case study involving the aggressiveness of IBC. The client did not follow her doctors advice and passed away November 2012
Combining thermography along with other modalities such as mammography and ultrasound yield the best results. Know that none of these screening methods are standalone procedures, nor can they diagnose cancer. A cancer diagnosis can only be made with a biopsy of the breast tissue.