Who isn't familiar with the expression, "early detection is the best prevention?" We hear this term throughout the year and most everyone is familiar with this "catch phrase" as it relates to breast cancer. Obviously, a woman's chance for survival improves when a cancer is found early. We hear that simple rhyming statement but are women really offered early detection?
Our "gold standard" for breast cancer screening is mammography, clinical breast exam and self-breast exam. Other techniques are used but ALL current technologies examine structure; something is formed and large enough to be seen or felt. However, it is well-documented that a mass that is detected by mammography has been growing for 8-10 years before it was detected. Is this early detection?
There exists a technology that can detect an issue YEARS before a tumor can be seen on X-ray or palpated during an exam and truly offers early detection. This technology has been approved by the FDA as an adjunctive screening tool since 1982 and offers NO RADIATION, NO COMPRESSION AND NO PAIN. For women who are searching for early breast cancer detection, digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) may be of interest.
Historically, DITI fell out of favor shortly after its initial debut in the early 80s. When DITI was first introduced, strict protocols and trained technicians did not exist. Shortly after its initial beginnings, DITI fell out of favor as a diagnostic tool in the medical community.
There are now very strict protocols both for testing and interpreting. Perhaps due to these guidelines, thermography (as with all digital technology) has exploded in its technique and capabilities. Thermal cameras detect heat emitted from the body and display it as a picture on a computer monitor. These images are unique to the person and remain stable over time. It is because of these characteristics that thermal imaging is a valuable and effective screening tool. Tumors or other breast diseases measures warmer than surrounding tissue and can thereby alert a physician to a problem before a tumor is actually palpable.
Medical doctors who interpret the breast scans are board certified thermologists. Thermography is not limited by breast density and is ideal for women who have had cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, women who refuse mammography, or women who want clinical correlation for an already existing issue. Thermography, because it analyzes a developing process, may identify a problem several years before mammography. As we all know, early detection is important to survival.
DITI has an average sensitivity and specificity of 90%. An abnormal thermogram carries a 10x greater risk for cancer. A persistent abnormal thermogram carries a 22x greater risk for cancer. Thermography, as well as mammography is a personal choice for women. This decision ideally should be made in collaboration between you and your physician. However, thermography does not require a physician's order.
Thermographic screening is not covered by most insurance companies but is surprisingly affordable for most people. For more information or to find a certified clinic in your area, go to www.proactivehealthonline.com.
Brenda Witt is co-owner of Proactive Health Solutions in Southern California. She is an American College of Clinical Thermology (ACCT) certified thermographer in the Orange County area.