Women's Health

Thermal Imaging (Thermography)

Most Americans are personally aware of the impact of breast cancer because one or more women they know and love have succumbed to this disease that kills thousands of women each year. Understandably, women are deadly serious about waging an effective war upon this disease.

There is no question about the importance of early detection as a weapon in surviving this disease. As women, we are taught early on about the advantages of doing a regular self-exam of our own breasts and getting an annual breast examination by a doctor. But it is mammography, we are told, that is the single-most effective tool in the arsenal of detection of breast malignancy - in time to save lives.

This article is about Thermography. Few women have heard about this procedure and even fewer have used this screening tool to help in their efforts of early detection. Because information about thermal imaging is much harder to come by than mammography data, this article is intended to be a reliable, balanced and current source of information about Medical Thermography. We rely heavily upon the publications and case studies of William Cockburn, DC who can be accessed at his website home.richardsfamilyhealth.com/-docbil.

Background. Infrared thermal imaging is a familiar application for the military, and more recently for space programs because of its detection abilities. It has a variety of medical applications.

How Does it Work?
Thermography measures heat that radiates from the body. A sophisticated camera with infrared capabilities images the heat coming from the skin's surface. The camera is but one piece of this important system. It is connected to a state-of-the-art computer and monitor, which produce images of the breasts as a whole. The procedure can also produce temperature measurements of small areas of the breast.

The tissues of the breast should be symmetrical bilaterally, and there should be no local hot spots. Where thermography visualizes abnormal areas of heat or asymmetrical vascular patterns, this is an early warning that something MIGHT be wrong and need further attention.

Not every abnormality is a forewarning of cancer. Such a result can indicate there is an infection present or perhaps a fibrocystic condition.

Start with Thermography
This procedure is conservative and it is non-invasive. It does not utilize other devices such as laser that are regarded, by some, as dangerous. Mammography is a diagnostic tool and is best employed as a follow-up procedure when a thermography shows abnormalities.

Gerald D. Dodd of the University of Texas, Department of Diagnostic Radiology has concluded that thermography, as a screening device to determine if mammography were indicated, would eliminate the need for a high percentage of mammographies in the general female population over 40 years of age.

The Shortcomings of Mammography
As any woman knows who has had this procedure, mammography's use of breast compression is painful.

Dense breast tissue found in younger women and those who are postmenopausal are difficult to diagnose by mammography.

Furthermore, Mammography utilizes radiation, which increases the risk of developing malignant disease. Robbins' Textbook of Pathology points out that it takes at least 18 months for tissues to repair radiation damage. A mammography every year does not allow time for prior radiation damage to repair.

Why Have I Not Heard of Thermography?
It is not presented in the medical press or mainstream media. You may not even know a woman who has used this screening process. So word-of-mouth is not yet spurring women to investigate this procedure.

Why Isn't My Doctor Referring Me to a Certified Thermographer?
Thermal image is still overcoming the obstacle of poor technology in the early years. Some with a vested interest have misrepresented this procedure as a cancer detection technology. Early thermography pioneers often had no medical background and entered the field as an entrepreneurial pursuit. Training and certification programs lacked sufficient standards. This technology developed a 'bad name' and created a disservice to the women who might have benefited from this screening process.

According to Dr. Cockburn, it is very important thermal imaging be conducted by technically trained professionals with high quality training in the fields of health science. Additionally, it is imperative that the equipment be of the highest quality and that the results of the procedure are verifiable by others.

What is the truth? Thermography does not detect cancer. It demonstrates abnormalities that may indicate the presence of breast cancer. Mammography does not detect cancer. It demonstrates abnormalities that may indicate the presence of breast cancer

At this time the technology is state-of-the-art, and resistance is more about political opposition from competing medical technologies.

At the RFHC, we are pleased to offer the skills of Dr. Wm Cockburn who personally conducts the screening procedure in our offices, approximately every 6 weeks. Call for additional information or to schedule a screening.

Does this apply to you? If so, see our information on Consultations.