The Newest Trend in Health Screening
There is a rising trend in women seeking out thermographic testing as a means to monitor their breast health rather than the standard mammogram. Some doctors believe that thermography may be helpful in monitoring younger women for breast cancer and can detect changes in breast health that warrant further investigation earlier on. If you’re familiar with breast health screening procedures, you may be wondering what the difference is between a thermogram and a mammogram. This article should clear things up for you!
What is Thermography?
Thermograms are anatomical images that utilize heat to create a picture. Basically, thermograms create heat-mapped images of the body similar to infrared. The image generated shows color variations based on cooler and warmer parts of the body. Warmer areas of the body appear yellow, orange, and red and can correspond to blood flow as well as tissue inflammation. When monitoring for cancer, this becomes useful as elevated heat levels can correspond to areas where cancer cells have taken root. Cancer, even at its earliest stages, begins to demand its own blood supply in a process called angiogenesis. When thermograms are done on a regular basis, changes in heat patterns can be detected and further tested, potentially saving lives. 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.
If a significant heat change is detected in a thermographic image, 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. They utilize x-rays to reconstruct the anatomy of the breast in a grayscale image. A dense area where a cancerous lump can 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 as well. This can make things more difficult for doctors when trying to interpret the images. The risk for breast cancer becomes greater as the patient ages. 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.
Another Tool in the Toolbox
So, what’s the potential benefit of adding thermography to the annual check-up routine? Thermography is non-invasive, completely safe, and 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 early on in your 20’s so it can be used to measure against changes that may begin to happen later on in life. When it comes to cancer, early detection is key. While thermography cannot take the place of a mammogram, adding thermography into the routine may help provide physicians the additional data so that future changes are made apparent. Consider it one more tool in the toolbox to help you stay healthy!
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