Thermography: The Trendiest Screening Test
There is a rising trend in women seeking out thermography to monitor their breast health and keep an eye out for cancer. Some doctors believe that thermography is helpful in screening for breast cancer as it can detect changes in breast tissue that warrant further investigation in younger patients. If you’re familiar with breast health screening procedures, you may be wondering what the difference between a thermogram and a mammogram is. This article should clear things up for you!
How It Works
Thermograms are anatomical images that utilize heat to create a picture. In simpler terms, it is an active heat map of the body. Thermographic images show color variations based on cooler and warmer parts of the body. Warmer areas of the body correspond to blood circulation as well as tissue inflammation. When monitoring for cancer, this becomes useful as it may show elevated heat levels where cancer cells have begun to multiply. Even at its earliest stages, cancer reroutes the body’s blood supply to feed its growth in a process called angiogenesis. When thermograms are done on a regular basis, these slight changes in heat can be detected quickly enough to stop cancer before it progresses dangerously. However, thermograms cannot be used as a stand-alone diagnostic tool for breast cancer. It is best used in conjunction with other recommended screening tools.
What if a change is detected? The patient will likely be referred to other specialists for more testing, such as a mammogram. Mammograms are a completely different type of imaging tool that utilizes x-rays to recreate the structure of breast tissue on a grayscale image. A dense area where a cancerous lump is most likely to develop will appear white on the grayscale image. The downside to mammograms is that the dense breast tissue of younger, healthy women also tends to appear white. This can complicate diagnostic procedures for doctors when trying to interpret the images.
As we know, the risk for breast cancer becomes greater as people age. Currently, most women are recommended to begin getting mammograms around age 40. Before then, annual physical breast exams are the standard means of diagnostic testing, as well as the recommendation for women to perform their own monthly physical breast examination.
A Tool for Health
So, what’s the potential benefit of adding thermography to the annual health routine? Thermography is non-invasive, completely safe, easy to perform. Thermographs provide an option for younger women with dense breast tissue to begin keeping track of their breast health. Some doctors recommend getting the first one done in the early 20’s so it can be used to measure against changes that happen later on in life. When it comes to cancer, early detection is key!
While thermography cannot take the place of a mammogram, penciling in a yearly thermogram may help provide additional data on the body so that future changes are made more apparent. Consider it one more tool in the toolbox to help you stay healthy and live better for longer!
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