Thermography: Frequently Asked Questions

Questions & Answers...

What is thermography?


Thermography, or Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI) is a non-invasive, radiation-free form of diagnostic imaging. Its main utility is to detect abnormal physiology. As inflammation is commonly at the root of most disease processes, thermography easily identifies these areas of the body where inflammation is present. Regional and full-body thermal scans can be useful in assessing a variety of conditions and can assist you and your healthcare practitioner in developing an action plan to reverse inflammation. For a list of the most common uses for thermographic imaging, please visit our How It Works page.



Can thermography diagnose cancer?


No diagnostic test can diagnose cancer. Confirmation of a cancer diagnosis can only be achieved through surgical biopsy. However, diagnostic tests are performed in advance of surgery to (1) localize the area of concern, and (2) to gain more information before surgery. The type of diagnostic tool utilized, however, is important in terms of the information it can provide to you and your healthcare provider. 



How does thermography differ from mammography and ultrasound?


Thermography is uniquely different from and produces very different results than mammography and ultrasound. Thermography is a test of physiology whereas mammography and ultrasound are tests of anatomy. Mammograms are a type of x-ray and utilize radiation to create an anatomical or structural snapshot. Ultrasound uses sound waves which also produce a result based on anatomical structures. Thermography, on the other hand, produces a visual image of physiology and looks for changes in function without the use of radiation. Furthermore, unlike mammography, there is no compression of breast tissue with thermography. 



At what age is a breast thermogram recommended?


Given that female breast tissue is not stabilized and typically very dense in youth, breast scans are not recommended prior to age 28.



Is thermography appropriate for women over the age of 28 with dense breast tissue, fibrocystic breast tissue, breast implants and breast reconstruction/augmentation?


Yes, as there is no compression of tissue with thermographic imaging, this diagnostic tool is ideal for all women over the age of 28.



Should I have a breast thermogram if I have a suspicious lump?


Absolutely! A thermographic scan can often differentiate between a cyst and a potential tumor in the presence of vascular activity. Benign cysts do not draw a blood supply, but they can be extremely painful (I know that first-hand). Breast cysts are also very common in women between the ages of 30 and 50. 



Does thermography replace mammography?


Thermography is intended to be used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools. A more complete picture of your breast health is achieved utilizing a multi-modal approach which includes self-breast exams, thermography, mammography and ultrasound.



How frequently should I have a breast scan?


In order to get a baseline of each individual’s breast health, the first two scans should be done 3 months apart. From there, annual scans are recommended in order to detect any changes in symmetry from year to year. Early detection is the key to catching breast disease in its early stages.



Are there types of cancers that are not easily detected through thermography? 


Yes. Tumors that are encapsulated are difficult for any diagnostic test to reveal - this is true for mammogram and ultrasound as well. Benign tumors which do not draw a blood supply are also “silent” in thermography.



What should I expect during an imaging session?


Clients are required to disrobe for the areas in which the scan is being conducted. Accommodations are made to ensure your privacy as much as possible. Imaging is quick and painless.



What do I need to know before I arrive for my appointment?


There are some guidelines to follow before a scan for optimal results. Clients will be required to:

  

  • Refrain from using caffeine and nicotine at least 2 hours prior to an appointment.
  • Refrain from using deodorant, lotions, perfumes, powders, oils, self-tanners and makeup on the areas to be imaged.
  • Refrain from eating spicy foods or chewing gum less than 2 hours before imaging.
  • Refrain from chiropractic, acupuncture and massage treatments 2 hours prior to imaging.
  • Refrain from sun exposure, hot tub, and infrared sauna use 2 hours prior to imaging. Clients presenting with a sunburn will not be imaged.
  • Refrain from exercise 2 hours prior to imaging.


All of these actions and activities disrupt normal blood flow and produce scans that do not reflect normal physiology. Please print and complete required paperwork and bring it with you on your visit, as this will expedite your imaging process.


Please note: Any surgical procedure to the breast region requires a 3-month healing period prior to thermal imaging.



Is thermography covered by insurance?


Most health insurance companies will not cover thermography services at this time. You may, however, be able to utilize Flexible Spending Funds, Health Reimbursement Accounts and Care Credit to cover the cost of your imaging. Additionally, if you have personal, supplemental insurance (such as Aflac), a portion of the cost of your imaging may be covered. 


Also, if an at-risk woman or man is in need of a breast screening, the United Breast Cancer Foundation (UBCF) may provide assistance with a free or low-cost breast screening regardless of age, income, gender, race, ethnicity or health insurance coverage. For more information on this, please visit https://www.guidestar.org/profile/11-3571208



Where’s the research?


There are greater than 800 peer-reviewed studies utilizing more than 300,000 female participants in medical journal indices. Most of these studies included upwards of 10,000 participants - some up to 85,000 participants – who were monitored for many years. Meditherm was a pioneer in producing a camera solely intended for clinical use and remains the industry’s leader with the largest network of users worldwide.


For those who like to do their research, abstracts for some of these studies can be found online by searching Google Scholar’s search engine. Here are a few that I found very helpful:


https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287644169_Introducing_Brazilian_Thermology_Society_ICGMT_and_PAJMT


https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165168412002794


https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-10-3147-2_13


https://www.igi-global.com/chapter/infrared-thermography-as-a-means-of-monitoring-and-preventing-sports-injuries/175107


https://www.igi-global.com/chapter/infrared-thermography-as-a-means-of-monitoring-and-preventing-sports-injuries/175107




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