or Computerized Thermal Imaging
Thermography is also known as digital infrared imaging or computerized
screen for breast cancer, a thermographer blows cool air over the
breasts. This causes the amount of blood going to the breast to
computer programs allow the doctor to isolate differences in temperature
and perform other tests to determine if there is any trace of cancer.
Dr. William Cockburn is a board certification clinical thermographer.
He has written extensively on the benefits of this procedure.
writes that, "...thermography is capable of detecting and measuring
the body's physiologic response to abnormality and mammography is
capable of detecting and measuring the structural or anatomical
lesions present. It has been estimated that thermal imaging is 8-10
years ahead of mammography as a risk indicator."
does it work?
Cancer cells grow and multiply much faster than healthy cells.
they grow they build up a network of their own blood vessels. They
need the extra nutrition supplied by this network to continue to
of these factors cause areas with precancerous or cancerous cells
to be hotter than the surrounding tissue.
is based on this idea. It takes an infrared picture of the breast
that shows temperature in various colors. "Hot" spots
are areas that identify suspected cancer.
The human body has many built in survival features controlled
by the brain.
is heat conservation. Blood carries heat to the skin as a way to
maintain a constant temperature in our bodies.
we are exposed to cold, the blood vessels closest to the skin constrict.
They get smaller so that the blood will be forced away from the
cold and into the core of our body where our most important organs
heat regulation mechanism maintains the warmth the body needs to
why your fingers and nose get cold when you are out on a chilly
day. Your blood has gathered away from the skin to conserve heat
and protect you from hypothermia.
flush you notice when you have a fever or get overheated is the
blood rushing to the surface to get rid of excess heat. This is
your brain protecting you from hyperthermia.
cells take control
The network of blood vessels that the cancer cells have created
is not under this autonomic control. These blood vessels obey the
cancer cells, not the body. They will not respond to the brain's
order to shut down to conserve heat.
the area where cancer cells are beginning to grow or where the cancer
has built its blood vessel network is unaffected by the cool air,
it will stand out clearly on a thermographic image as a "hot"
is it not used for screening?
In theory thermography sounds perfect. It is non invasive and not
painful. It can pick up precancerous conditions and cancer eight
to ten years earlier than a mammogram.
have found that this technique can identify cancerous growths. The
problem is that it identifies other "hot" spots as cancer
too often to be useful as a diagnostic tool.
is not the only condition that causes "hot" spots. Any
slight irritation, infection or hormonal irregularity can cause
temperature fluctuations in breast tissue. Thermography has no way
to accurately distinguish what is causing a change in temperature
in the breast.
The National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference
Statement issued in 1977 stated, "Because the potential benefits
of thermography remain undocumented, the panel recommended that
thermography be discontinued as a routine part of the BCDDP [Breast
Cancer Detection Demonstration Projects] screening program except
in those centers where sufficient expertise is available to justify
further clinical investigation and research."
research has been conducted on thermography since that early advisory.
1982, the FDA approved breast thermography as an adjunctive diagnostic
breast cancer screening procedure to be used in conjunction with
a mammogram. They recommended continued study of the technique.
As of November 2000, the Komen Foundation reported that the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) has reversed its position and at that
point did not approve thermography equipment for screening purposes.
American College of Radiology advised that "thermography has
not been demonstrated to have value as a screening, diagnostic,
or adjunctive imaging tool."
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