Thermography is a type of infrared imaging science. Breast thermography is a kind of screening for breast cancer; a clinical diagnostic procedure which is thought to be very effective for detecting breast cancer by some experts.
Here very specialized infra red cameras are used that detect and measure heat sources including those emitted by the human body, more particularly the breast.
Imaging of the breast is done while making sure that there are no other heat sources around that may interfere with the image formation.
The person undergoing breast thermography is asked to remove all clothing upward from the waist and/or any neck jewelry and then is required to acclimatize to the environs of the room where the procedure is carried out; this is to ensure that the person’s temperature is at equilibrium prior to the imaging process so that there is no distortion of the imaging.
There is usually a requirement for the person to put their hands on top of their heads or to hold on to bars to extend their arms so that the armpit region and the area under the breast is cooled down.
Then imaging of the breasts is done from several different angles; the sides, the front, from underneath, and from an oblique angle as well.
Then by dipping feet in very cold water or holding on to something very cold, a neurological response is induced which cools down the breasts. This is done on the principle that healthy breast tissue will cool down while the cancerous growth (if any) will not.
Then the imaging process from all the angles is repeated so that the difference in the before and after pictures is able to be detected. The pros and cons of breast thermography are as follows:
Breast Thermography is accurate and safe: When properly performed, breast thermography is highly accurate in being able to detect the presence of breast cancer at a very early stage.
Some estimates put the level of accuracy of the procedure as high as 96%. It is the claim of those offering this screening service that the procedure offers information that no other breast cancer screening process is able to offer.
When breast thermography is used in conjunction with a mammography procedure, it can be complementary to and can add to information obtained from the process.
Since breast thermography does not make use of x-rays and there is also no compression of the breast in this process, it is thought to be safe. They also give accurate results when breast tissue is very dense.
Breast thermography is not an alternative to a Mammogram however: Breast thermographs are able to detect thermal emissions and certain kinds and may not be used by itself as a diagnostic tool.
It is seen to be most effective when used in conjunction with other screening processes and self exam.
Strict Protocols have to be maintained: To get accurate results, strict procedures and protocols of examination have to be followed and trained technicians are required, without which the chances of inaccuracy increase.