Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women. If detected at an early stage, immediate treatment may stop the spread of the cancer cells and eradicate them entirely.
Detection procedures that are commonly used include self breast examination, breast examination by a health professional, mammography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Ultrasound and thermal imaging.
When a breast examination reveals the presence of a suspicious lump, the patient is usually sent for a mammogram for a closer examination of the growth. A mammogram is conducted by subjecting the breasts to radiation and compressing the breasts in between metal plates for a few seconds in order to get an x-ray image. Because of the discomfort and harmful radiation exposure that accompany a mammogram, it is usually not conducted at more than yearly intervals. In the meantime, changes in abnormal cells or cells with faster growth may go undetected.
Aside from a mammogram, thermal imaging can detect breast abnormalities in women. This procedure is less invasive than a mammogram and does not utilize harmful radiation to detect cancer cells. The idea behind thermal imaging is that the special thermal camera can sense heat energy emitted by increased blood flow and metabolism in specific areas of the breast. Increased blood flow indicates the presence of a suspicious growth in the area. Artificial color is used on the images to indicate varying degrees of temperature that distinguish abnormal cells from healthy tissues.
With thermal imaging, you will not experience discomfort or compression of the breasts. The procedure is fast and painless. All it takes is around fifteen minutes of your time to check your breasts for any abnormal formations. Your very first thermal image is stored and registered as your baseline scan. Future images will then be compared against your baseline image.
Mammograms may not be effective in detecting breast cancer in women younger than 50 years old because these women generally have denser breast tissue making it difficult for a mammogram to discover abnormal growth in the breast. A young woman in her 20s or 30s with a family history of breast cancer is often recommended thermal imaging to detect cancer cells as early as 10 years before a mammogram can detect them and obtain early treatment with more likelihood of success.
There is some concern about the additional risk posed by the radiation coming from a mammogram in those with existing cancer cells. Without risk of radiation exposure, thermal imaging allows fast-growing malignant tumours to be monitored more often than mammogram screenings could allow.
Women who have undergone reconstructive or cosmetic surgery of their breasts may not benefit from a mammogram. These women may still check their breasts for abnormalities with the help of thermal imaging.
While most women may have welcomed thermal imaging as a method for detecting breast cancer, the procedure still has its pitfalls as it has been found to produce false negatives and false positives in some situations. Pending further refinements in the technology of thermal imaging, it is best used with other screening procedures such as breast exam, mammogram, MRI and ultrasound, rather than as an alternative to any of the said procedures.