How Thermography Detects Breast Cancer

How it works, simply

Thermal Imaging doesn’t look for tumors in the breast. Instead, it looks for the body’s response to tumors, which is far more accurate. Masses can be hard to find, but if tumors are in the breast, your body will respond.

Cancer cells have a higher metabolic rate than regular tissue. Also, the growth of tumors increases blood quantity and flow. Both conditions increase heat at the site of the cancer, which our infrared cameras can detect. Differences between the right and left breast also indicate conditions.

(See the Thermography Gallery for more images.)

Tumor of the right breast.

Notice the red pattern showing higher heat than surrounding tissue and the white area, the hottest location, showing the site of a suspected tumor.


How Breast Tumors Increase Blood Flow

Remember: Tumors increase blood flow, increased blood flow produces heat; heat is detected on thermal images. But, how do tumors increase blood flow?

Actually, it’s pretty simple. Here’s what happens:

  • Cancer cells need blood to grow, which means they need more arteries to bring blood.
  • The cancerous cells emit a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to simulate blood vessel growth.
  • New vessels grow (angiogenesis), increasing blood flow and, therefore, heat, which infrared cameras can detect.

Image of angiogenesis: growth of new blood vessels. At the second (middle) stage above, before the tumor starts spreading, increased blood flow will produce a “hot” spot on a thermal image.

This process begins when the tumor is still very small. Thermal imaging can detect the increased heat pattern when the tumor is small. When the reading doctors identify a problem in the breast tissue, they will typically recommend re-imaging the location in 3 to 6 months to examine changes, and may also recommend an ultrasound for comparison.

Because thermal imaging isn’t looking for masses (which have to be about the size of a dime for mammograms to detect) but for increased heat (which begins very early in cancer growth), you have very early detection of tumors in your breasts.

And early detection saves lives.

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