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Can Thermal Imaging Detect Breast Cancer?

If Bal Gill had not chosen to visit the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions at Edinburgh’s Royal Mile earlier this year, there’s a good chance she would be facing a death sentence instead.

The tourist attraction in the Scottish capital is a popular destination for tourists to the city and offers, among other things, an opportunity to get a thermal image of your body, showing its varying internal temperatures.

Although she didn’t know it at the time, the technology is identical in its science, if not its application, to the screening tool, ThermoCheck®, that we use here at The Natural Doctor to help monitor breast health, including breast cancer.

What Bal’s image showed was significant tissue heat in one breast that wasn’t replicated in the other. The disparity was enough to persuade her to do some more research when she got home – which was when she learned about breast thermography.

Often when there is a problem in the body, the tissue becomes inflamed and hotter as our natural immune system kicks in to try to combat that problem.

In this way, abnormal tissue temperature is a warning sign of a potential problem. Furthermore, cancer cells generate heat from their increased metabolism and their stimulation of new blood vessels to nurture their growth.

Breast thermography uses thermal imaging cameras to capture these heat abnormalities. Undertaken regularly and from an early age – breast thermography is suitable for women of all ages, whilst mammography is not – it can identify potential health risk many years before the problem presents as a physical abnormality such as a thickening or lump.

Bal was right to be concerned and having discovered that thermal imaging was increasingly used by oncologists and private clinics like ours to help spot signs of breast cancer, she went to her GP and asked to be referred.

A positive diagnosis of breast cancer quickly followed. Luckily for Bal, it was caught early enough to be treated and six months and two of three planned surgeries later, her prognosis is good.

If you’re familiar with our work and our regular blogs, you’ll know that I’m constantly mystified by the persistent refusal of the NHS, Public Health England and the Third Sector to embrace thermography.

Some clinicians argue there is not enough clinical evidence (for this read: clinical trials) to support the view that thermography is reliable as a screening tool. However, trials show that when it is done correctly it has high levels of accuracy in detecting the presence of breast cancers.

By any comparison, breast thermography is a better screening option than mammography (although we argue the two should be used in a complementary monitoring strategy).

  • Breast thermography is suitable for every woman of any age. Mammography is unsuitable for young women due to breast tissue density and is only offered routinely to women when they reach the age of 47 (there are exceptions to this, notably where there is a family history of breast cancer);
Dr Nyjon Eccles
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