Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging detects minute variations in the body's normal blood vessel activity, finding thermal signs which may suggest a pre-cancerous state of the breast or the presence of an early tumour that is not large enough to be detected by other means. It is painless, non-invasive, non-contact, comfortable and free of intravenous injections and ionising radiation. They are considered safe, and can be used for younger women who have denser breast tissue and for women who have breast implants.
Breast thermography is a breast health monitoring tool that can identify metabolic changes in breast tissue. Heat patterns in the breast relate to blood vessel activity and usually remain remarkably consistent throughout a woman's life. Any negative changes can indicate deteriorating breast health and provide an opportunity to address underlying factors. With lifestyle changes improvements can be seen. Accuracy is unaffected by breast density or age.
A highly sensitive infrared scanning camera builds a visual image graphically using colours to map increases or decreases in the amount of infrared radiation being emitted from the patient's body surface. Thermal Imaging is based on detecting heat produced by metabolic changes and increased blood vessel circulation associated with a tumour's genesis and growth. Cancerous tumours require an ever increasing supply of nutrients to feed their cells. Existing blood vessels are held open, dormant ones are opened and new ones are created (neoangiogenesis). Thermal Imaging may detect these minute variations in normal blood vessel activity which might suggest a pre-cancerous state of the breast or the presence of an early tumour that is not yet large enough to be detected by other means. It has consistently been shown that healthy individuals have a symmetrical coloured skin surface temperature pattern. It is painless (no application of mechanical pressure), non-invasive, non-contact, comfortable and free of intravenous injections and ionising radiation. They are considered safe, and can be used for younger women who have denser breast tissue and for women who have breast implants. Thermal Imaging is not generally seen as a replacement for mammograms.
Infrared rays were first discovered in 1800 by William Herschel. William Herschel (Jr), his son, took over and furthered his studies in the 1830s. These discoveries were not used until the early part of the 20th Century, when Infrared Technology was designed for security and military applications for weapon sighting systems. During the late 20th Century, Infrared Imaging was brought into the medical field but there was a general lack of knowledge and experience as it was complex, erratic and slow to use. Computers have developed faster and more efficient systems and we now have more effective thermal cameras making infrared thermal imaging easier to use. These cameras are used in many areas such as within the military, weather forecasting and security and search applications. In the late 1980s, a company called Meditherm developed the Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging especially for the medical field. The FDA approved the DITI in 1982 and it is used extensively worldwide in human medicine and animal applications.
When having a thermogram, you will be asked to change into a gown and sit in a temperature controlled room to allow your body to cool from any external conditions. You are then positioned in front of a Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging camera, and the technician will take pictures from different angles (approx 5-15 mins). A thermal scan analyses the heat that is given off by the breast and allows for immediate display onto a computer monitor. These pictures are then analysed by a certified physician looking for amounts of heat and symmetry of heat patterns.