With the continuing controversy and debate surrounding “Mammogate” here is an interesting alternative that can spot breast cancer years before mammograms and is much safer. Thermography can detect disease and injury by revealing the thermal abnormalities present in the body. Can assess pain and pathology anywhere on the body and is very helpful in monitoring therapy. No radiation – 100% safe for everyone Non-invasive, no injections. Offers privacy – no bodily contact. Thermography is cost effective, risk-free and provides instant images through digital technology. A device developed for Cold War spying might help women detect breast cancer four to six years before it appears on a mammogram. Shelley Gilliland, a certified clinical thermographer for Radiant Health Imaging, uses digital infrared thermal imaging to detect and monitor a number of diseases and physical injuries, including breast cancer.
“It works by showing the thermal abnormalities present in the body,” Gilliland said. “In a single click of my camera, I take over 80,000 temperature readings of the body.
“While not all abnormalities are cancer, all cancers start as an abnormality.”
Medical digital infrared thermal imaging is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that pictures and analyzes changes in the skin’s surface temperature without the use of radiation. While X-rays, ultrasound, and mammography show the structure of the body, thermal imaging shows the physiological activity, such as active inflammation and increased blood supply found in many illnesses.
Gilliland said more than 50 percent of her business is from women seeking an earlier form of detection than a mammogram can offer.
“It is radiation free and there is no contact with the body,” she added. “There is no squashing or compression.”
A scanning device – think an advanced digital camera – is used to convert infrared imaging from the skin surface into electrical impulses that are shown in color on a monitor.
The visual image maps the body temperature and is referred to as a thermogram. The spectrum of colors indicates an increase or decrease in the amount of heat being emitted from the body surface.
Gilliland said since there is a high degree of thermal symmetry in the normal body, subtle abnormal temperature differences are easily identified, and because infrared thermal imaging is highly sensitive to variations in the vascular, muscular, neural, and skeletal systems, it can contribute invaluable information to a diagnosis made by a physician.
The images are then checked by a group of more than 30 doctors for abnormal vascular activity.
“Initially, we take a baseline image. After 90 days, a second image is taken and compared to the first,” Gilliland said. “The doctors look for changes over time.”
Like fingerprints, Gilliland said without a pathological change or injury, the images should stay the same.
In order for a mammogram to detect a breast cancer tumor, Gilliland said the tumor is between six and eight years old and has over a billion cells. However, a thermogram can detect the heat given off by cancer cells multiplying at two years, or 256 cells, before it is even a lump.
“This can give a woman four to six years to get healthier with life style changes and monitor the area,” she said. “In a nutshell it is earlier detection and screening or well care versus sick care.”
Plus a thermogram can be used to help doctors monitor how well radiation treatment is working on a specific tumor, which could mean the difference between a partial lumpectomy and a mastectomy.
Gilliland became interested in the technology after meeting Radiant Health Imaging founder Pam Ryerse. Gilliland has been a nurse for more than 30 years and said overtime she has developed a more holistic and preventative approach, and thermography has become a mission for her.
“I have four daughters; that’s eight breasts that I need to worry about,” she said. “And young women are kind of falling through the cracks.”
While insurance doesn’t cover thermography, Gilliland is quick to point out that mammograms for women younger than 40 years of age are not generally covered either.
“It’s about peace of mind. Knowing that nothing is growing, what is that worth?” she said.