Integrated Health Solutions (IHS) provides a breast cancer screening center dedicated to helping healthcare professionals and consumers discover and monitor breast health concerns, through the use of digital infrared thermal imaging. Infrared (IR) imaging is a non-radiation, non-contact, accurate and safe screening method with over 30 years of research and development history. It was FDA approved in 1982 as a clinical breast screening device.
Digital infrared thermography cameras detect heat that is given off by the body and displays it in picture format onto a computer monitor. Infrared scans are unique to the individual person and remain very stable over time, which makes them very effective as a screening tool to pick up changes that may occur. To establish a client’s baseline, an initial scan is taken followed by an additional scan in 3-6 months for comparison. Once that stable baseline is established, yearly screening is all that is necessary, unless the client or their healthcare provider wants more frequent evaluations. A client who has active disease or who needs to monitor treatment may want to obtain more frequent scans.
IHS scanned images are evaluated by medical doctors who have been trained and certified by the American College of Clinical Thermology as Clinical Thermologists. Evaluations may result in the need for further clinical correlation and/or may suggest abnormal pathology. For instance, tumors develop their own blood supply by a process known as angiogenesis. Studies using IR technology have reported this process as hypervascularity, neovascularity, or hyperthermia in 86% of nonpalpable breast cancers. Angiogenesis is an early event and may occur before tumor cells acquire the ability to invade surrounding breast tissue. Infrared scans can also pick up increased blood flow caused by tumor-induced nitric oxide vasodilatation, which produces heat at the site of the tumor. Standardized quantitative measurements of these heat differentials can be evaluated. A focal temperature change at a given area may vary by 1-3 degrees centigrade compared to other parts of the body. Other abnormal findings may include detection of unusual vessels that form clusters, loops, or aberrant patterns.
Thermography screens for physiologic changes in the body. Mammography screens for anatomic changes in the body, as does breast self exam, ultrasound and MRI. It is important to note that physiologic changes occur before anatomical changes occur in the body. Therefore, a thermogram scan may detect the earliest possible signs of developing breast pathology. Thermography can detect subtle physiologic changes in the body that accompany cancer, fibrocystic disease, and infection.
Earlier detection offers a greater survival benefit due to earlier treatment. A breast tumor may take 5-15 years to develop into a palpable or detectable anatomic structure (a mass or calcification). However, physiologic changes in biochemistry, blood flow, and nervous system response occur early in the process of cancer development, and can be detected by thermography before anatomic structure is developed. Studies have shown that an abnormal thermogram scan will detect smaller tumor size than those tumors detected by an abnormal mammogram scan.
Thermography, is a valuable complementary test to mammography. Whenever possible IHS recommends both. However, there are certain cases where thermography may be the screening tool of choice. For instance, younger women (under age 40) with denser breasts who want to avoid long term cumulative radiation exposure while vigilantly screening for risk would benefit. Also, women with breast implants, small-breasted women, pregnant women, women who are post-mastectomy, and women who have had chemotherapy and/or radiation are excellent candidates for thermography, as are men. Approximately 10% of all breast cancers occur in men, and that number is increasing.
IHS is staffed with a nurse practitioner who is a Certified Clinical Thermographer, trained to obtain images based on standardized protocols. Protocols include keeping the temperature controlled within a specific range, and keeping the room free of drafts and natural light. The patient must abstain from alcohol, coffee, smoking, exercise, deodorant, and body lotion prior to testing.
Breast thermography can be obtained by self-referral by anyone interested. The initial visit for breast screening is approximately an hour in length. The initial visit for full body screening is approximately an hour and one half. Our nurse practitioner completes a comprehensive clinical history with the client, which accompanies the scan images to the certified doctors for interpretation. A full report is received back in less than a week. When requested, reports may be obtained within 24 hours. Other clinical conditions utilizing digital infrared thermal imaging include: musculoskeletal disorders, neuromuscular disorders, pain, GI disturbances, and autoimmune disorders (i.e. fibromyalgia).
The client is given several copies of the actual scanned pictures and the report to give to their healthcare providers. The certified doctors reading the scans, as well as the physician reviewer at IHS are available by phone to speak with the client’s physician to facilitate optimal use of the scan information. The client’s doctor can use this information as part of their overall clinical assessment to determine diagnoses and treatment options. Follow-up scans can be used to monitor the effects of those treatment plans and to follow the progress of a potential problem. Since there is no radiation involved, there is really no limit as to the number of scans that can be taken.
Some insurance companies do cover thermogram scans, as CPT codes for billing do exist, and it will probably just be a matter of time before more companies come on board with coverage. Nevertheless, the cost of thermography is affordable. Most importantly, Integrated Health Solutions (IHS) provides individualized attention, and collaboration with each client’s healthcare provider/s.