What is medical thermology?

thermoribbonMedical thermology is the science that derives diagnostic indications from highly detailed and sensitive infrared images of the human body.  Medical thermology is sometimes referred to as digital infrared imaging.  Medical infrared imaging, involves the use of high thermal and spatial resolution infrared (thermographic) cameras.  Medical thermology is a patho-physiologic discipline that is completely non-contact and involves no form of energy imparted onto or into the body.  Medical thermology has established applications in breast oncology, cardiology/vascular medicine, chiropractic, dentistry, neurology, occupational medicine, orthopedics, pain management and veterinary medicine.  Medical Thermography Associates specializes in Full Body and selected regions of interest thermographic screenings for any medical application.


How does medical thermology work?

Medical thermology can reveal the abnormal metabolic and blood-flow features that cause changes in the temperature of the skin that are characteristic of certain types of diseases . Skin temperature is a result of blood-flow and metabolic activity near the surface of the body.  Medical thermology provides a means of evaluating skin temperatures for specific abnormalities in patterns, levels and behaviors that are characteristic of certain disorders and diseases.  Medical thermology is completely different from all other forms of diagnostic imaging as it evaluates features of body function (physiology) rather than structure (X-ray, ultrasound or MRI).

In the Breast for example, the glandular and ductal networks of the breasts are specialized variations of sweat glands and are actually organs of the skin rather than internal organs.  The blood-flow and metabolic activity of the female breast are highly influenced by estrogens and progesterone hormones and the phases of the menstrual cycle as well as pregnancy and lactation.  These influences will manifest changes in the breasts’ thermal features.

Typically, medical thermology is an indicator by a detailed evaluation of the levels, patterns and behavior of “Hot Spots” on the skin that result from abnormal blood-flow and metabolic conditions characteristic of cancer.  The “Hot Spots” occur as a result of the uncontrolled and excessive flow of the body’s core-temperature blood to a relatively superficial area.  This excessive blood-flow occurs simultaneously with the first cellular changes of cancer and precedes the development of a physically-discernible tumor.  This explains the ability of medical thermology to provide the earliest objective indicators, often years prior to structural-based diagnostic imaging, such as X-ray and ultrasound.

Medical thermology does not offer any reliable means to evaluate conditions involving the core (deep internal organs such as the heart, lungs, liver or kidneys) of the body as there is no means of directly affecting the skin’s blood-flow.


How often should I have a Thermography scan?

Once a reliable baseline has been established, which normally requires two studies 3-months apart, you should have an on-going annual comparative study to detect any suspicious functional (physiological) changes, warranting further investigation.  Depending on your personal history and risk factors, your doctor can advise how often you should have a thermal scan repeated.


Who should have a  Breast thermology screening?

Most women should start annual breast thermology screenings at 20 years of age, although it is never too late to start.  It is not necessary to have a doctor’s referral to have the screening done.


Breast cancer is the largest cause of death for women aged 29-45!

Every expert agrees that earlier detection of breast cancer enables earlier treatment with better results that saves lives.  Breast thermology is completely safe (no X-rays No Radiation), often provides the very first objective indication for all of forms breast cancer and has a very high diagnostic sensitivity for women of all ages.

Generally, breast cancer takes many years from its inception to the death of its victims.  Therefore, most women would benefit by including breast thermology as part of their annual healthcare regimen, starting at around the age of 20.

Because thermographic imaging is without any risk of physical harm, women can be self-referred for routine screening.  However, our practice requires every woman to share the breast thermology report with their professional healthcare provider who is able to order other indicated diagnostic procedures to complement her study.

Breast thermology can also be useful to monitor changes to the specific metabolic and blood vessel features of breast cancer during and after many forms of treatment.  However, this monitoring must be done in close coordination with the treatment program, as directed by a personal physician.


What can I expect during the imaging process?

The first step is to fill out and complete the appropriate form(s) for your screening.  A patient history form and pre-appointment instructions are on this website so you may download and print them.   Please read these instructions carefully and bring the completed patient history form (including the name and mailing address of your personal physician if applicable) with you to your appointment.  If you have any questions as to the forms you need for your particular imaging please call us at 518-983-6564 and we will be happy to assist you.

You may book an appointment by calling our office (518-983-6564)  or you can book an appointment on line by clicking the “Book Now” button.

After you arrive, your first stop will be at the front desk.  The thermography technician will accompany you into the climate-controlled imaging room and review your history form with you.  The technician will explain the full details of the imaging process and address your questions.  You will undress and put on a medical gown while your body acclimates to the temperature in the private imaging room.  It usually takes 10 – 15 minutes for your body to acclimate.

Once your body has acclimated, the imaging can start.  The thermography technician will instruct you so that you are properly positioned for the images of your scan.   Once the technician confirms the quality of your images, you may get fully dressed and leave.  The entire process is typically completed in 30-60 minutes, depending on whether it is a Full Body or Region of Interest scan.

Remember, nothing and nobody touches you.  No lights, heat or any other form of energy (X-ray, magnetic or sound waves) is directed at you.

Our imaging center provides the highest standard of professionalism, respects your privacy and guards your confidential information under the HIPAA regulations.


Who interprets these images ?

Your images are interpreted by Physicians Insight MD’s who are Board Certified Medical Doctors trained in Medical Thermography.  The certified thermography technician taking the images is not able to give you any immediate results, as the evaluation of your infrared images requires a specific, deliberate and detailed analysis by a qualified expert before any conclusions can be drawn.


Is Thermology a benefit of my health insurance?

There are some insurance companies that provide thermographic screening (thermology) as a benefit.  However, Medical Thermography Associates is “fee for service” provider and payment is expected at the time the screening is done.    We keep the cost artificially low to make it affordable and we would be happy to provide you the insurance “code” so you can apply for reimbursement.


Can Thermology diagnose breast cancer?

Not by itself.  No single, or even combined, imaging test can diagnose  breast cancer.  Cancer is only diagnosed (definition: a medical conclusion) by the most specific procedure possible – that is by a detailed evaluation of an actual tissue sample (biopsy). Every form of medical imaging (X-ray mammogram, ultrasound, MRI and thermology) is intended to provide the specific characteristics of a disease (definition: diagnostic) that will indicate which individuals, and the exact locations, that need to be biopsied.


What is the reliability of Medical Thermology?

There are two criteria to look for when evaluating diagnostic testing methods.  All diagnostic tests are graded by their sensitivity (how well a test correctly identifies the presence of a disease) and specificity (how well a test correctly identifies the absence of a disease).  No diagnostic test is perfect and some tests are seriously degraded by patient conditions.

Breast thermology has a very high sensitivity (approximately 97%) and good specificity (approximately 75%).

Given the risk level for breast cancer, we contend that every woman needs the combined benefits of several means of diagnostic imaging.  Breast thermology is usually able to detect the earliest characteristic signs of breast cancer but is not able to provide the exact location of the abnormal cells with the precision necessary for a biopsy.  Thus, a multi-modality program is necessary for the early detection of breast cancer.

We believe that thermology is vital to the healthcare of every woman because of its high sensitivity and its complete safety.


Do I need a thermology study even if I have had an X-ray mammogram?

Yes.  There is no single means of testing for breast cancer that is perfect or even sufficient by itself.

X-ray mammography’s sensitivity (how well a test correctly identifies the presence of a disease) is approximately 80% at best,  (compared to a sensitivity of 97% for breast thermography).  This means that it misses 20%, or 1 in 5 cancers.  In addition, X-ray mammography has a practical limitation in that it can not detect a tumor until it is approximately 1 cm (which is about the size of a pea, with about 4 million cells).  This means that the tumor has been growing for at least  5 years.

The sensitivity of X-ray mammography is also significantly degraded for pre-menopausal women, women who have dense or fibrocystic breast tissue, women with implants, women who have had surgical reductions or prior biopsies, women with large or small breasts and those with fast-growing cancer.

The specificity of X-ray mammography (how well a test correctly identified the absence of a disease) is approximately 11% with a large number of false-positive errors, compared to 75% for thermography.


 

What they look for

X-ray mammography is a structural study of the breasts that images details based on the differences in the tissues’ absorption of X-ray radiation.  Usually this means the identification of clusters of small and irregularly shaped calcium deposits (called micro-calcifications).  Calcium deposits occur not just as a result of cancer but as a response to many forms of tissue stress.  Calcium deposits are easily obscured by competing densities from glandular or scar tissue, and some cancer grows too quickly to cause calcium deposits.

Breast thermography, on the other hand, indicates cancer by evaluating the specific levels and thermal patterns, or “hot spots”, caused by abnormalities of blood flow.

Although breast thermology is not perfect, multiple clinical studies have established that breast thermology has a sensitivity of 97%  compared to 80% for mammography and a specificity of approximately 75% (versus 11% for mammography).

And unlike X-ray mammography, there are very few conditions that can interfere with the sensitivity of breast thermology, but its specificity can be compromised by local sources of inflammation or other metabolic abnormalities.

Thermography is effective for women with many of the conditions that degrade the effectiveness of X-ray mammography.  Because the blood-flow changes characteristic of breast cancer usually occur years in advance of calcium deposits, thermology is able to indicate breast cancer long before X-ray mammography.

As the only means of objectively evaluating the functional disorders specific to breast cancer, we contend that thermology has a vital role in every women’s healthcare for breast cancer.  An abnormal thermology study requires some form of structural study (ultrasound, X-ray mammogram or MRI) to provide the specific site for a biopsy should your doctor determine one is necessary.


If medical thermology is so great, why isn’t  it available in every hospital?

Medical thermology is available in a few major university-based medical centers.  However, most hospitals have not yet determined how to integrate thermology into their imaging services, or they are satisfied with their existing imaging services, or they have not determined any means by which to fund a thermology service.

Many of the medical doctors that practice thermology are specialists in neurology, surgery, vascular medicine or oncology and they practice thermology as an adjunct within their specialty, rather than as a discipline itself.  There are very few trained and dedicated thermologists, not nearly enough to be available for even the major hospitals.  In addition, the imaging services of most hospitals are run by radiologists and most radiologists have no useful abilities for thermology, as it is based on medical function rather than medical structure.  What little knowledge many radiologists have of thermology is outdated and they may be under peer-pressure to disregard thermology as an imaging system outside of their domain.  Unfortunately, the current lack of effective national standards for quality and practices for thermology also acts to keep it out of the mainstream of Medicine.

iScanHD has created the “standard of excellence” and has assembled the most advanced technologies and standards to certify centers.  Medical Thermography Associates in Clifton Park, NY is the first in the Capital Region, and the only center in Upstate NY to meet these standards and become a certified center.


I asked my physician about thermology and was told the procedure was not standardized yet.

Today, iScanHD medical imaging system has created the standard of excellence and Medical Thermography Associates is a Certified center.  Unfortunately, many physicians are uninformed or misinformed about medical thermology.  Please ask your physician to read the Physians section of our website or contact our office for a collection of published peer-reviewed scientific and medical studies.

The rise in the incidence of breast cancer during the early 1970’s and the early successes with medical infrared imaging generated a great deal of enthusiasm for it as a diagnostic tool.  The early adopters of medical infrared imaging were able to demonstrate impressive sensitivity levels in their preliminary studies even using relatively primitive analog equipment, and only a superficial level of empirical knowledge to guide their evaluations.  In 1974, the US National Cancer Institute funded a large-scale study on the early detection of breast cancer as a means of reducing mortality and included medical infrared imaging almost as an afterthought and with some very poor planning.

Unlike X-ray mammography, there were no specifications or standards for the equipment, technique, evaluation or reporting for medical infrared imaging in this study.  In most instances, the investigators evaluating the patient studies had no meaningful training and improper testing protocols before or during the tests.  The resulting failure of this study was widely misinterpreted as a failure of diagnostic infrared imaging – an impression that was often promulgated by other imaging specialists with professional and/or proprietary disinterests.  The poor results from the Breast Cancer Detection and Demonstration Project effectively dampened the early enthusiasm for medical infrared imaging.

However, medical scientists came to understand the fundamental basis for the “Hot Spots” of breast cancer, and clinical studies developed an objective analytic system that lead to a major transformation from the empirical practices of Thermography to the level of a proper (albeit young) science of Thermology.  Currently, there are more than 800 clinical studies involving more than 300,000 women that are published in peer-reviewed medical journals and which validate the claims for early detection, very high sensitivity and good specificity of breast thermology.  Unfortunately it is very difficult to get a chance to change a first impression and many physicians hold out-dated opinions without any real knowledge of the transforming developments for medical infrared imaging since the mid 1970’s.


Why should I choose Medical Thermography Associates for my thermology?

Because we use the integrated system of the most sensitive and accurate infrared cameras, patented medical imaging software, interpretation by independent board certified MD’s and we are the most qualified, most experienced practitioners of medical thermology.  We work to the highest standards of imaging, analysis, reporting, and patient care.

Medical Thermography Associates is an iScanHD Certified Imaging Center and we are the premier source for medical thermography in the region.  We earn our reputation for innovation, quality and integrity with every patient study.  Medical Thermography Associates, with the iScanHD Certified imaging system is simply the most experienced and accomplished provider of medical-grade thermography around.