I had been a bit nervous all day wondering what my thermogram procedure would entail. Would I need to undress completely? Would I be given one of those paper gowns that opens in the front and barely covers me? Would there be any heat coming out of the camera? I had been avoiding a mammogram after reading the latest information about the risks associated with X-ray; knowing that I was potentially putting myself at greater risk by not taking charge of my health. It was my massage therapist who told me about thermography as an adjunctive tool for breast cancer screening and now I find myself lost in my thoughts as I am driving to my thermographic appointment.
As I entered the lobby, I noticed that the temperature was cool and refreshing. The paintings on the wall were bright and cheerful with many colors that caught my eye. I felt at ease right away.
I was quickly greeted by the thermographer. She guided me to her office and there I felt all the tension melt away. She showed me around the office explaining the need for a cool temperature and allowing me to browse her collection of literature, leaflets, handouts and brochures. It smelled like my grandmother's garden in the spring. Just a hint of orange blossom, honeysuckle, green apple all mixed with a light touch of rain forest greeted my nose. The plants were lush and healthy and soft music was playing in the background. The lights were dim and I could almost imagine myself back in grandma's Arizona room.
The thermographer asked if I had any questions and of course I said no, trying to show her that I was calm, relaxed and not a bit nervous. She smiled knowingly and asked me to please step behind the room divider and change into a robe she set out for me. The robes were soft cotton and tied in the front. She then asked that I fill out the paperwork. She explained that I would need to do my best to keep my arms away from the side of my body so I could cool down and she could get a more accurate image. She then read over my information and asked me questions about my health in general and specifically breast health. All the while, I was grateful for the full coverage of the cool, cotton robe and remembered to keep my arms away from my body.
Next, I moved to the scanning area where I was shown the six different positions required for the scan. She then asked me to sit on the stool and turn my back to her. At this point, she asked me to drop my gown. I was told to keep my hands on my waist while she took my thermal picture. I learned that it usually takes 12-15 minutes for the temperature of my skin to come to equilibrium with the temperature of the room. Once my temperature stabilized, the scanning began. During the scan, she asked that I raise my hands above my head and remain still; allowing me to rest my hands back on my waist between the different poses. The camera did not emit any heat and never touched my body. The total scan time was about 5 minutes.
Once we were done, I changed back into my clothes and thanked the technician for a soothing and comforting experience. Before I left the office, I picked up a few of the breast health brochures to share with my family, friends and colleagues.
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.