Thermographer: Veronica Curran, ANP-BC
The Midwives of New Jersey believe that being proactive with breast health is extremely important to early breast cancer detection and as such we are proud to offer Thermography.
What is Breast Thermography?
Breas thermography is a painless, non-invasive, state-of-the-art test. It is used as an early detection program to identify activity in the breast that could lead to pre-cancerous cell growth. Thermography is a heat-generated image that can show early changes in breast tissue that can lead to breast cancer. It does not use any radiation to detect possible masses.
Women of all ages are given the opportunity to increase their chance of detecting breast disease early on. It is particularly useful for women under 50 where mammography is less effective.
Researchers from the Ville Marie Breast Center examined infrared imaging in 100 women with noninvasive stage I and II breast cancer. In this study, the 84% sensitivity rate of mammography alone was increased to 95% when infrared imaging (thermography) was added (source).
Thermography testing is completely radiation free, painless, and the best part is that nothing touches you.
To establish a stable baseline, a woman would come for two thermograms three months apart. This is to make sure there are no changes in thermal patterns during that time. If no change, your stable baseline is established, and you would have another thermogram annually. If there is a change, recommendations would be given based on the information. Sometimes that includes another thermogram in 3-6 months, a mammogram, or a breast ultrasound.
How Does Thermography Work?
State-of-the-art breast thermography uses ultra-sensitive infrared cameras and sophisticated computers to detect, analyze, and produce high-resolution images of temperature and vascular changes. By carefully examining changes in the temperature and blood vessels of the breasts, signs of possible cancer or pre-cancerous cell growth may be detected years prior to being discovered using any other procedure.
Is Thermography Safe?
Yes, Breast Thermography is as safe as getting your picture taken. There is no radiation exposure or anything invasive about the test.
Is Thermography Different Than a Mammogram or Ultrasound?
Yes. Unlike mammography and ultrasound, thermography is a test of physiology, meaning it looks for functional changes in breast tissue which may indicate trouble years before a tumor can be detected by other means. It detects and records the infrared heat radiating from the surface of the breasts. It can help in early detection and monitoring of abnormal physiology and the establishment of risk factors for the future development of cancer. This gives the woman an opportunity to change her lifestyle to promote breast health.
Mammography and ultrasound are tests of anatomy. They look at structure. When a tumor has grown to a size that is large enough and dense enough to block an x-ray beam (mammography) or sound wave (ultrasound), it produces an image that can be detected by a trained radiologist. Most cancers are detected by mammography when the diameter of the tumor has grown to the size of a dime and contains over 4 billion cells.
Does Breast Thermography Replace a Mammogram?
When used as part of a multi-modal approach (thermography + clinical examination + mammography), 95-98% of early stage breast cancers can be detected.
Who Should Have a Thermogram?
Breast Thermography is useful for women of all ages, especially for women aged 30-50 who may have dense breasts, which makes mammography less effective. It is also ideal for women who have had cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, women with large or small breasts, a history of fibrocystic breast disease, pregnant or breastfeeding, and pre and post-menopausal.
When should I get my first Thermogram?
Because the number one killer of women ages 29-45 years of age is breast cancer, we recommend a baseline thermogram beginning at age 20.
By beginning the screening process at age 20, we are able to establish a normal baseline to which all future thermograms can be compared. Since thermography looks at how the breast is functioning, any change noted in your unique “thermal fingerprint” may be the first warning that something is going on.
- Age 20 – Baseline (15-20 percent of breast cancer occurs between the ages of 20-44.)
- 20-30 yrs – Every 3 years
- 30 years and older – Yearly
Additional thermograms may be performed more frequently for higher risk women or based on suspicions from prior thermographic examination at the doctor’s discretion.
What to Expect at Your First Appointment
As always, you will have some paperwork to fill out, which is also available on our website, should you wish to fill it out prior to your visit. After completing the paperwork, you will enter the thermography room and put on a gown. For a breast thermogram, you will take everything off except for your underwear. You will be seated on a stool that swivels side to side and then we take a brief history. History taking usually lasts about 10 minutes.
Once finished, you will bring your gown down around your waist and sit for a moment to allow your body temperature to acclimate to the room temperature. Then we move on to do the actual images and take several images a few seconds apart to make sure your body temperature is not changing. Then you place your hands on the back of your head and take 5 images in different positions, the front, left and right sides, and left and right oblique sides. Once done, you bring your gown up and can get dressed!
Start to finish you can expect to be at our office for a half an hour.
Who Performs the Breast Thermogram and Who Interprets the Results?
Our Certified Clinical Thermographer will perform your thermogram right in our office. Medical doctors who are certified thermologists will then look at the images and review your history. They send back a report electronically with the result and any further recommendations. We usually get a report back within 36-48 hours of your visit to our office. One of our midwives will review the report and then call you with the results. You are always welcome to a copy of the report, and we are happy to forward it to your doctor as well.