What is Thermography?
Thermography is the measurement of temperature variations at the body surface. When used in a clinical setting, it is an imaging procedure that detects, records, and produces an image (thermogram) of a patient’s skin surface temperatures and/or thermal patterns. The procedure uses equipment that can provide both qualitative and quantitative representations of these temperature patterns. Thermography does not entail the use of ionizing radiation, venous access, or other invasive procedures; therefore, the examination poses no harm to the patient and is completely safe. Clinical thermography is a physiologic imaging technology that provides information on the normal and abnormal functioning of the sensory and sympathetic nervous systems, vascular system, musculoskeletal system, and local inflammatory processes. The procedure also provides valuable diagnostic information regarding dermatologic, endocrine, and breast conditions.
What exactly is the difference between mammography, ultrasound, and thermography?
There seems to be some confusion on this subject by thinking that one test replaces the other. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both mammography and ultrasounds are structural (anatomical) tests, while thermography is a functional (physiological) test. None of these tests are truly diagnostic technologies. Thermography images the breast and surrounding area and provides us with a risk assessment, while mammography and ultrasound detect structural abnormalities. If a breast abnormality is found that could possibly be malignant, a biopsy is performed. A biopsy removes a tissue sample for examination under a microscope.
Many women utilize thermography as a first step in breast health care, as it is non-invasive, radiation free and safe. After their initial assessment with thermography, if there seems to be a medium to high risk assessed, a woman may be asked to follow up either with an ultrasound or mammogram or both to rule out any existing pathology.
Frequently, some will be relieved that their mammogram or ultrasound test results show no abnormal findings, however this does not necessarily mean that nothing is going on with their breasts. Several other factors may be contributing to a high risk (abnormal) thermogram, such as: hormonal imbalance, early angiogenesis (proliferation of blood vessels), lymphatic swellings and poor function and other contributing factors – all these are important contributors to breast disease and malignancy and are not detected by mammography or ultrasound as these factors do not appear as structural changes.
The following is a list comparing all three types of tests with their pros and cons: