thermography faq's

Have questions about thermography? We've got answers. Check out the most frequently asked questions below.

Frequently asked questions

What are the advantages of Thermographic Imaging?

Thermography is able to produce heat maps of the body. It can image changes in local physiology and blood flow unlike other clinical exams. Unlike mammography, accuracy of the test is not compromised by denser breast tissue, common in women under, 50 years of age.

Why do I need to come back in three months for another breast thermogram?

The most accurate result we can produce is change over time. Before we can start to evaluate any changes, we need to establish an accurate and stable baseline for you. This baseline represents your unique thermal fingerprint, which will only be altered by developing pathology. A baseline cannot be established with only one study, as we would have no way of knowing if this is your normal pattern or if it is actually changing at the time of the first exam. By comparing two studies three months apart we are able to judge if your breast physiology is stable and suitable to be used as your normal baseline and safe for continued annual screening. The reason a three-month interval is used relates to the period of time it takes for blood vessels to show change…… a period of time less than three months may miss significant change…….. a period of time much more than three months can miss significant change that may have already taken place. There is NO substitute for establishing an accurate baseline. A single study cannot do this.

Who certifies your Thermographers?

Thermography technicians are trained and certified by the American College of Clinical Thermology. The American College of Clinical Thermology is an accredited medical association.

How does Breast Thermography compare to a Mammogram?

Both are imaging tests that do not specifically diagnose breast cancer, but image changes in local tissues due to various causes. Both are superior to clinical or self-examination for detecting early pathological changes. Mammography detects anatomical changes and is more precise than Thermography in identifying the exact location of a lesion, while Thermography images physiological changes that occur much earlier than anatomical changes.

How Often should I have a Breast Thermography?

We recommend that you have a Thermography Scan once a year.

I have a history of breast cancer, will Thermography be helpful?

Yes. You can repeat thermographic scans as often as you would like without exposure to radiation, painful compression or exposure to toxic chemicals. Thermography is a good way to image increases in heat for patients who have had mastectomies.

Will a Thermographic scan tell me if I have cancer?

Mammograms, Thermograms, MRIs, X-Rays or any other imaging scan cannot diagnose cancer. The most common way to make a cancer diagnosis is by taking a biopsy and having a lab analysis. A thermogram is able to detect areas of dysfunction in the body by imaging hot and cold areas. The reason this is so important, is that a change in temperature is one of the first signs of disease. This is the reason that areas of dysfunction show up so much earlier with a thermographic scan.

Does Digital Infrared Imaging replace mammograms?

No, Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging and mammography are tests based on two completely different principles, although they do complement each other. DITI (Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging) can pick up signs of inflammation missed by mammography. Mammograms do not image temperature patterns. Mammograms can only show dysfunction after there has been a change in density of the tissue, such as is the case with micro-calcifications or where a tumor has formed. Thermography is to be used in addition to mammography as part of a woman's regular breast health care. The consensus among health care experts is that no one procedure or method of imaging is solely adequate for breast cancer screening. The false negative and positive rates for currently used examination tests (including thermography) are too high for the procedures to be used alone. However, thermography may pick up thermal markers that may indicate the risk of cancers undetected by other tests. A positive infrared image is also the single most important marker of high risk for developing breast cancer. It is digital infrared imaging’s unique ability to monitor the abnormal temperature (physiological) changes produced by pathological breast tissue that allows for early detection. Since it has been determined that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer, we should use every means possible to detect these tumors when there is the greatest chance for survival. Adding these tests together increases the chance for early detection.

Is Thermography appropriate for Breast Implants?

Yes. The accuracy of Thermography is not affected in patients with implants. Since there is no compression there is zero risk of causing damage to the implants. Also there is no radiation that can cause drying of the implant membrane.

Does it hurt to have a scan taken? 

No. There is no contact with the body or painful breast compression.

Do I need a referral or prior authorization?

No you do not need a referral. Most patients come to us referred by practitioners, but we do not require a referral for the scan.

Will my insurance cover the infrared procedure/test and the office visits?

Thermography is not paid by insurance companies. It does not require a doctor's order and payable at time of service. Most cutting edge technology is not covered in most fields of medicine. You are given a receipt for your visit, which can be used as a medical expense for your taxes if applicable. Thermography is not covered by Medicare. Your information is secure and not reported to insurance carriers and entered into your health profile.

Do you accept credit cards as payment?

Yes. We accept all forms of payment including MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover. We also accept personal checks, business checks and cash. An additional fee of 3% will be added to credit card transactions.

How can the hands be a representation of early diabetes?

Diabetes is an autonomic dysfunction which leads to diabetic neuropathy and in later stages diabetic ulceration that can lead to amputations. Before that happens the early stage diabetic change causes an autonomic response of a loss of normal temperature gradients in the limbs, increased vascular activity is seen in the peripheral circulation (hands and feet) in an attempt to compensate for the autonomic changes in sympathetic control of skin blood flow. This loss of normal temperature gradients will be hot hands and feet. Later stage diabetes that includes diabetic neuropathy will present as cold hands and feet (other than local areas of developing ulceration). It is up to the interpreting doctors to give an opinion whether a systemic pathology is taking place (diabetic) or other pathologies which may be unilateral or bilateral, vascular, neurological, musculoskeletal or other causes of loss of temperature gradients.

Can Thermography see my organs?

Thermography is not specific to organ structure but it is sensitive to thermal changes that can accompany dysfunction. Thermography does not see the structure of specific organs. Thermal patterns are a representation of underlying physiological changes (more heat - less heat). There is a communication system between specific organ structures and the skin called the visceral-cutaneous reflex arc. This is why some organ dysfunction may appear as hyperthermia or hypothermia; but the specific cause of this dysfunction is unknown. These thermal patterns allow the interpreting doctors to write about possible, thyroid, appendix, liver, spleen, colon dysfunction etc... Thermal indications for organ dysfunction should be followed up with clinical evaluation if they are mentioned in your interpretive MD report from EMI.

What is the protocol for taking scan images of children?

Children, (pediatrics and juveniles) are handled differently than adults for thermal imaging due to findings that are affected by normal developmental changes as well as hormonal changes. The imaging of particularly young children can be challenging and it can be difficult to comply with good protocols which in itself will reduce the sensitivity and specificity of thermal findings. Any thermal asymmetries that can be reported should be regarded as a current status of physiology and likely to be transient due to developmental changes. The establishment of a stable thermal baseline for future comparative analysis has low success in children below the age of 14. Thermal imaging of any child below the age of 14 should only be conducted on referral by the child's physician with specific request relating to the clinical concern and symptom of dysfunction.

How long should a client wait to have a Thermogram after they have had acupuncture?

We ask that they wait 24 hours after having acupuncture before having a Thermogram.

Who will interpret my scans and write the report?

The images are read and interpreted by a Thermologist, a physician (MD) trained and specializing in the protocols of reading thermal images.

What do I do if a Thermogram is positive?

The first thing to do is not to get overly anxious! Vascular changes MAY be seen in non cancerous pre-cancerous conditions. Follow the recommendations of our Board Certified Thermologists that interpreted and wrote your report along with the advice of your own doctor. Take the results seriously. Consider changing your lifestyle and diet in an effort to reverse your findings. Thermography is a great test to monitor health over a period of time.

If I have my period will it affect the results of my Thermography?

The way Thermography works...systemic changes don’t affect the ‘thermal fingerprint’ or the unique patterns and temperature differentials, only developing pathology will do that. Hormonal changes are systemic and affect both sides equally. The patterns are not affected.

Do breast implants alter the results of a Thermogram?

Thermography is the preferred test for women with implants as there is no compression for potential damage. Accuracy is decreased with implants in both Thermographic imaging as well as mammograms.

Is Breast Thermography safe for everyone, even for pregnant or nursing women?

Yes, Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (Thermography) is completely non-invasive, does not use radiation, does not compress the breast and is completely 100% safe. While it is perfectly safe to have thermography while pregnant, you should not have breast imaging done at this time (you may scan other areas of concern) as the accuracy of results are compromised by the increased blood supply that accompanies pregnancy.

Can I have a Breast Thermography while I am breast feeding?

No, breastfeeding increases prolactin levels. Increased hormone levels can increase heat in the breasts, masking the normal thermal patterns.

How long do I have to wait to have a Breast Thermography after breast feeding?

You must wait 3 months after discontinuing breastfeeding before a thermal breast exam.

How long do I have to wait after any kind of breast surgery, completion of chemotherapy, or radiation before a Breast Thermography?

At least 3 months.

If I have a fever can I have a Thermography?

No, If you are ill with a fever the exam will not be accurate, you should be fever free for 48 hours.

How long after having a CAT Scan must I wait to have a Thermography?

You must wait at least 1 week.

How long after a biopsy or minor surgery must I wait to have a Thermography?

You must wait at least 1 month.

How long after a sunburn or tanning must I wait to have a Thermography?

You must wait at least 1 week.

What type of Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI) Camera do you use for imaging?

Our camera is the Meditherm IRIS 380 with 160,400 temperature measurements. It is a Class 1, FDA cleared medical device with a 510(k) clearance number K003332. Every individual pixel is a calibrated temperature measurement that is accurate and comparative to every other pixel. There is no interpolation of any of our resolution and definition. The comparative sensitivity is 0.01 deg C.

Summary Points of the research, safety and efficacy of Thermography:

The following is a brief highlight from Chapter 25 of the 2006 edition of The Biomedical Engineering Handbook, Third Edition, Medical Devices and Systems published by CRC Press. (“Medical Devices and Systems is an authoritative reference text and is considered the “bible” of biomedical engineering") summarizing the safety and research Thermography has undergone (the full report is listed under Research Studies further down the page):

• In 1982, the FDA approved breast Thermography as an adjunctive breast cancer screening procedure.

• Thermography has undergone extensive research since the late 1950's.

• Over 30 years of research comprising over 800 peer-reviewed studies on breast Thermography exist in the Index-Medicus literature.

• In this database, well over 300,000 women have been included as study participants.

• The numbers of participants in many studies are very large -- 10K, 37K, 60K, 85K …

• Some of these studies have followed patients up to 12 years.

• Strict standardized interpretation protocols have been established for over 15 years.

• Breast Thermography has an average sensitivity and specificity of 90%.

• An abnormal thermogram is 10 times more significant as a future risk indicator for breast cancer than a first order family history of the disease.

• A persistent abnormal thermogram carries with it a 22x higher risk of future breast cancer.

• An abnormal infrared image is the single most important marker of high risk for developing breast cancer.

• Breast Thermography has the ability to detect the first signs that a cancer may be forming up to 10 years before any other procedure can detect it.

• Research has shown that Breast Thermography significantly augments the long-term survival rates of its recipients by as much as 61%.

• When used as part of a multimodal approach (clinical examination + mammography + thermography) 95% of early stage cancers will be detected.

What do I do if my Doctor discredits my Thermography results?

Please help educate your doctor. Even the best doctors think inside their guidelines and frequently reject new ideas and technology. Chances are they are misinformed, or not informed at all. Share the Cornell Study below with them. Use your own judgment based on knowledge to direct your own healthcare.

Am J Surg. 2008 Oct;196(4):523-6. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2008.06.015.

Effectiveness of a noninvasive digital infrared thermal imaging system in the detection of breast cancer.
Author information: Arora N1, Martins D, Ruggerio D, Tousimis E, Swistel AJ, Osborne MP, Simmons RM.

Department of Surgery, New York Presbyterian Hospital - Cornell, New York, NY, USA.

Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) has resurfaced in this era of modernized computer technology. Its role in the detection of breast cancer is evaluated.

In this prospective clinical trial, 92 patients for whom a breast biopsy was recommended based on prior mammogram or ultrasound underwent DITI (Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging). Three scores were generated: an overall risk score in the screening mode, a clinical score based on patient information, and a third assessment by artificial neural network.

Sixty of 94 biopsies were malignant and 34 were benign. DITI identified 58 of 60 malignancies, with 97% sensitivity, 44% specificity, and 82% negative predictive value depending on the mode used. Compared to an overall risk score of 0, a score of 3 or greater was significantly more likely to be associated with malignancy (30% vs 90%, P < .03).

DITI is a valuable adjunct to mammography and ultrasound, especially in women with dense breast parenchyma.

WANT TO KNOW MORE about thermography?

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