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What is Breast Thermography?

Breast thermal imaging is literally a heat map of the breasts – “thermal” = heat “graphy” = map. The images are captured using an high resolution infrared camera. (Have you ever seen a movie in which people wore heat-sensing goggles to hunt people or animals? This is the same technology.)

The thermal image you see above are an example of a very symmetrical, low-risk breast scan. The pattern of colors on the right breast matches the pattern of colors on the left breast. The color chart used here is one that depicts the cool areas in black, purple, blue and green, and the warmer areas in yellow, orange and red, and occasionally white (being the hottest color).

Although we like to see mostly cool colors on each breast, seeing symmetrical color patterns is even more important. Since there has never been breast cancer diagnosed in one woman, in both breasts, in exactly the same spot, symmetrical heat seen on a thermogram is usually not a concern.

The first historical mention of the thermal process comes from Hippocrates, in 400 BC. He had a theory that disease created inflammation in the body, and as an experiment, he smeared wet mud on a patient’s bare body, and watched to see which part of the body dried the quickest. His theory was correct!

Modern thermography was developed in the 1956, when Dr. Ray Lawson discovered that the surface of a breast with cancer was warmer than the healthy breast. After several decades of random and unstandardized use of breast thermography, it was finally FDA approved as an adjuctive screening in 1982.

Today, the most effective way to use thermal imaging is in conjunction with other breast screenings. Most of our clients choose 2 or 3 screening methods, since each one is looking at a different layer of information. None of the current screening methods can actually diagnose breast cancer, only highlight an area of concern. Only a biopsy of the tissue can determine pathology. For this reason, utilizing several screening methods can assist women in making an educated and intelligent choice when considering any further action.