Breast Cancer Diagnostic Options
May 01, 2018 02:00AM
by Malcolm Sickels MD
Thermography as a way of diagnosing disease has been around for thousands of years. Back in the old days, they would smear mud on people and watch it dry. If an area was hot, that area would dry faster, so they’d say, “Oh look, something’s going on there.” Today, thermography uses an infrared camera where we can detect the heat signature via of an increase in blood flow in the skin that reflects what’s going on underneath.
Cancers are very metabolically active, so they generate a lot of heat, and with thermography we can see the change in physiology that’s occurring. This is a completely different approach to our standard way of screening for breast cancer, which is doing an anatomical X-ray mammogram of the breast, which can find dense masses and calcifications that are already there.
Mammography and thermography are both screening tests, neither of them are diagnostic. With thermography, we can see the changes even before there’s a cancer and improve the woman’s physiology to reduce the risk of things progressing. Both mammograms and thermography have a sensitivity of 80 percent or so, so if someone really wants to maximize their chances of finding any cancer, they could do both. The downside to mammograms is the compression and the radiation. With thermography, it’s just an infrared camera, so there’s no compression or radiation. Radiation from x-rays is particularly an issue for reproductive tissues like breasts and ovaries since they are more sensitive to radiation than other tissues.
Thermography is fabulous at finding inflammatory breast cancer, which is almost impossible to pick up with mammograms or even MRIs. Inflammatory breast cancer is an uncommon breast cancer, but is more aggressive and deadly than most breast cancers.
Mammograms are good at finding some of the really deep, dense breast cancers in women with large breasts that sometimes can be so deep that they don’t even show up on a thermogram. In addition, there are new mammograms that are sometimes called breast tomography, which is sort of a 3-D mammogram that uses less radiation than a standard mammogram. So, when given the choice, there’s really little reason for women not to opt for the new tomography.
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