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Natural Awakenings South Central Pennsylvania

Using Thermography for Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

Oct 03, 2021 07:22PM ● By Sheila Julson

Breast thermography is a form of thermal imaging that uses an infrared camera to sense heat and record patterns of inflammation and blood flow on or near the surface of the skin. Because it is noninvasive and does not involve radiation, thermography can be used as a risk assessment tool by identifying where inflammatory problems are developing.


Techniques such as mammography, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) rely primarily on finding an existing physical tumor. Thermography works by detecting the heat produced by increased blood vessel circulation and metabolic changes associated with a tumor’s growth. By tracking variations in normal blood vessel activity, it may locate areas that suggest a precancerous state of the breast.


Breast thermography is performed in a temperature-controlled setting. Patients will disrobe from the waist up, allow the surface of the breasts to cool to room temperature, and then raise their arms to have the images taken. On the thermogram images, “hot spots”, or inflammatory responses from the body, appear red compared to surrounding tissue, which shows as yellow, green or blue. The first session provides a baseline, or “thermal thumbprint”. Patients return for subsequent sessions to check whether patterns have changed.


Breast thermography dates to 1956, when Dr. Ray Lawson, a Canadian surgeon, published “Implications of Surface Temperatures in the Diagnosis of Breast Cancer.” This paper included a picture of a large breast mass demonstrating temperature variation with surrounding breast tissue. Lawson’s hypothesis kicked off decades of research to advance breast thermography as a supplemental risk assessment tool for preventive wellness.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared thermography for use with another screening or diagnostic test such as mammography. It should not be used in place of mammography to detect, diagnose or screen for breast cancer.


Advanced Thermal Imaging is located at 550 Coventry Dr., in Mechanicsburg (1-866-522-3484;