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The Role of Thermography in Breast Health

Why Thermography

At Carolina Integrative Medicine we are using a state-of-the-art Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging machine.  From the moment I was introduced to thermography over 5 years ago, I knew that this non-invasive, highly accurate means of viewing the body and the effects of inflammation on the body’s cells needed to become a part of our integrative approach to medicine. It provides another way for our patients to take an active role in their own health. As part of my commitment to this proactive diagnostic procedure, we acquired our own thermal imaging equipment and have been offering this proactive, preemptive tool to our patients for several years.  Our entire healthcare team has been trained in the procedure and last year I had specific training to become a thermologist - a physician that performs and interprets thermal images. Since then I have read hundreds of thermograms and have become increasingly more convinced of the effectiveness of this amazing tool.

The Procedure

Thermal imaging of the breast (or any other part of the body) is completely noninvasive, making it safe, painless and easy. There is no radiation involved.  There is no uncomfortable touching or compressing.  It simply involves taking pictures with a camera specifically designed for thermal imaging of the human body. The camera captures a picture of body heat and displays the thermal patterns on a computer screen in the form of a digital image for analysis.  Although thermography has not yet become the medical standard for maintaining breast health, it is an FDA registered procedure.   Because it has the potential to both detect abnormal cell inflammation and then show the positive results of preemptive treatment, and because the treatment requires no invasive procedures, chemicals or radiation, I believe it will become the diagnostic tool of choice in the near future.

The first session provides a baseline of the patient's Thermal Signature. Most often this first set of images shows no abnormal cell activity or inflammation. Then subsequent sessions are to assure the patterns remain unchanged. Yet, if as happens in the early stages of cell disease, there are some cellular changes, they can be detected before the onset of most abnormal growth. They are detectable by a thermogram because these suspect cells will stimulate new blood vessels to grow. Very simply, where there is more blood, there is more heat. Abnormal and diseased cells produce more heat in their early development. Thermal Imaging examiners take particular note of these “hot spots” which may often be early signs of abnormal activity. This activity has been shown to begin many years before any warning signs can be shown by other screening methods.

Preemptive Treatment with Thermal Imaging

If changes are detected in the thermal signature then we have an opportunity to intervene and change the outcome. The earlier an abnormality is detected the better the treatment options will be, resulting in a better outcome.  Treatment options at this early stage include strategies for reducing inflammation at the cellular level.  We recommend dietary changes to insure that the patient gets sufficient levels of anti-inflammatories like omega 3 and anti-oxidants from fruits and vegetables. We prescribe physician-grade supplements and nutraceuticals to provide a higher level of these substances than diet can deliver.  High grade fish oil, Vitamin D and Iodine supplements are available at Carolina Integrative Medicine.  We test the patient’s levels of estrogen and progestogen and prescribe bio-identical hormones that ensure healthy hormone ratios.

What Thermal Imaging Can Reveal

The following thermography images show a before and after picture of how early abnormalities can be detected and treated so that potential unhealthy breast cells can become healthy again.

The first image revealed “hot spots” in the breast area.  The recommended treatment was a saliva test to measure the current levels of estrogen and progesterone followed by Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy to create healthy ratios. The second image is a follow-up image of the same area one year later after the appropriate hormone therapy had transformed problematic cells to healthy cells.

Who Can Benefit

It takes years for breast abnormalities to develop to the stage in which they can be detected with mammogram or ultrasound, so thermography is an ideal screening tool to identify changes over time.

It has become obvious to me that we can all benefit from thermography screening.   I suggest that every woman gets a baseline image and a follow-up image every year, particularly younger women, women with a family history of breast cancer, and women who have had an abnormal mammogram or breast exam.

One day there may be a single method for the early detection of abnormalities. For now, for all of our patients who are proactive partners in their health, we recommend a combination of methods. These include annual thermography screenings along with mammography, monthly breast self-exams, regular breast exams by a healthcare professional, personal awareness for changes in the breasts, and readiness to discuss any such changes quickly.

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