Medical thermography is a non-invasive technique of detecting inflammation and blood flow within your body’s tissues. Inflammation is often a sign something is wrong, whether it’s an infection, a thyroid issue, trauma from a myofascial injury, or a number of other things, including abnormal tissue growth.
A thermograph is a reading of the heat patterns throughout your body or the targeted site, such as breast tissue. The flare signal of inflammation is heat, which is why proponents of thermography say it shows promise as far as detecting issues below the surface before radiation-based scans or exploratory surgery.
Thermography is the measurement of temperature variations at the body surface. The scientific evidence suggests that thermography may only confirm the presence of a temperature difference, and that other procedures are needed to reach a specific diagnosis.
Thermography may add little to what doctors already know based on history, physical examination, and other studies. However, half-body, full-body, or breast scans may throw up a red flag a physical examination doesn’t cover, which tells your doctor there’s more to explore there. These scans should be interpreted by a certified reader, to help minimize false positives.
Thermography studies are non-invasive imaging techniques that are intended to measure the skin surface temperature distribution of various organs and tissues. The infrared radiation from the tissues reveals temperature variations by producing gradations of gray or color in patterns on a computer monitor.
Interpretation of the color pattern is thought to unveil any areas of potential concern by identifying inflammatory responses or areas of increased blood flow in the body. While thermography isn’t that expensive, insurance companies will not cover it. Like other procedures and lab tests highlighted by integrative medicine there are political reasons and misconceptions that underly this issue.
Benefits & Uses of Medical Thermography
Doctors in holistic and integrative medicine use thermography as a screening tool for many disorders that these heat pattern readings may point to, including:
- Allergy problems
- Carpal tunnel
- Heart disease
- Nervous system disorders
- Thyroid/metabolic disorders
- Undiagnosed pain
Specifically, thermography may be most useful for gauging and monitoring inflammatory responses over the course of creating a holistic nutrition plan. Widespread or digestive inflammation can indicate that certain foods are toxic to your body, and can help a nutrition counselor narrow down a diet plan that optimizes your health and resilience.
Can Thermography Really Tell You if You Have Cancer?
The short and definitive answer is, no. Thermography is not a diagnostic tool – it cannot tell you what’s wrong with your body. Thermography is a test of physiology that shows areas of disproportionate heat, or, in the case of circulation issues, areas of disproportionate cool. Because heat = inflammation or increased blood flow, and inflammation/new blood vessel growth often signals abnormal cell activity or cell growth, a thermogram is a tool to confirm that yes, there is something to look at in this area.
Because cancer is characterized by cells growing and multiplying quickly, tumors have faster metabolisms and require more blood flow than surrounding healthy tissue. With thermographic breast cancer screening the report signals a degree of risk. One of the most important benefits of this test is that a breast health program can help change high risk breast tissue to the physiology of a low-risk breast. High risk tissue with a palpable lump requires another data point and may help direct care. Conversely, low risk tissue with a palpable lump is unlikely to be a growing tumor.
The FDA warns against relying on thermography as a diagnostic tool for cancer, but does support it as a way to augment regular mammograms.
Thermography as a Complementary & Preventative Health Screening
At the Blatman Health and Wellness Center, we often utilize thermography to help us target symptoms of joint pain in patients, as well as inflammatory responses from environmental or diet-based allergens. We have found thermography useful in breast imaging for more than 20 years. Your report will be sent to the practitioners you choose, and appointments can be scheduled with Dr. Blatman to review results and any questions you have.
An integrative approach to medicine is key to early detection of health issues and prevention of the development of new ones. Considering the benefits of a thermography study? Schedule a consultation with Dr. Blatman for more information on what medical thermography screening might do for you.