“OCTOBER SPECIAL RATES” in honor of breast cancer awareness month. 30% off our usual low rate on all tests done in October.
In 2014 we read the following description of breast thermography:
Thermography, also known as thermal imaging or infrared imaging is a non-invasive,
non-contact system of recording body temperature by measuring infrared
radiation emitted by the body surface. It is a passive, pain free, fast,
low cost and sensitive method. Breast thermography can be utilized by
women of all ages, with any breast size and density, for young and pregnant women.
The technique was approved by the FDA in 1982 as a way of measuring injury
to body tissues. The breast thermography procedure is based on the principle
that precancerous tissues and the area around a cancerous tumor are warmer
than the normal breast tissues due to increased blood supply to the tumor,
and higher metabolic activity. PET scans are based on the same principle of increased blood supply and
increased uptake of glucose in malignant tissues – radioactive glucose,
in the case of PET scans.
The principle underlying thermography has a long history. In the writings
of Hippocrates around 480 BC we read about a diagnostic technique that
involved spreading a thin layer of mud over a patient, and observing to
see which area dried first – this was an indication as to the underlying
area of pathology. Fortunately, in the 21st century we do not have to use mud. We can use an infrared sensing camera.
In the late 1950s publications demonstrated a temperature differential
in cancerous vs non-cancerous tissue, and recommended temperature measurements
as a diagnostic tool.
The principle is sound, the images are clear, the technique is painless.
It does not damage tissue
through ionizing radiation. It is relatively inexpensive.
And yet, thermography is not respected or utilized by conventional medicine.
It is not covered by insurance. The Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance company
states in their policy: “All forms of thermography are considered
not medically necessary as there are no published studies to demonstrate
how the results of thermography can be used to enhance patient management
and improve patient health outcomes. The scientific literature is inadequate
to validate the clinical role of thermography.”
Many physicians in the allopathic world sneer at it, calling it ineffective,
and a scam. That same Blue Cross/Blue Shield policy on thermography states:
“The American Medical Association, the American College of Radiology, the American Academy of Neurology, the American College of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists, and the National Headache Foundation, have issued policy
statements or other documents that specifically do not recommend or endorse
thermography as a diagnostic technology.” Several of these policy statements are no longer available online.
The American Cancer Society does not even mention thermography as an option.
The Susan G Komen website mentions thermography only to talk about the
FDA warning in 2011 that unscrupulous practitioners make misleading claims
about the validity of the technique.
Stephen Barrett, an unlicensed skeptic trained as an medical doctor, calls
thermography “worse than useless” on a website entitled
https://ScienceBasedPharmacy.Wordpress.com. There seems to be a companion site called
https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/dr-christiane-northrup-and-breast-thermography-the-opportunistic-promotion-of-quackery/ with exactly the same image of breast thermography. This site calls thermography
“the opportunistic promotion of quackery”.
Are we missing something? Is thermography as bad as they say it is?
Thermography sounds like the ideal screening tool for breast cancer.
Thermography does not compress the breasts. Mammography uses often painful
compression to get adequate images.
Thermography does not use ionizing radiation, the one thing we absolutely
know causes cancer. Mammography uses ionizing radiation to obtain its
images of the breasts.
So why is thermography not in use in every breast screening facility all
over the country?
In 1990, KL Williams et al declared: “Thermography is not sufficiently
sensitive to be used as a screening test for breast cancer, nor is it
useful as an indicator of risk of developing the disease within five years.”
That opinion has been adopted and repeated by allopathic medicine since
The criteria upon which that conclusion was based were diagnosis of false
negative and false positive readings.
False negative was defined as “a woman with histologically proven breast cancer,
in whom the thermogram was normal.”
False positive is defined as “a woman in whom the thermogram was abnormal, but
clinical examination and mammography showed no evidence of malignancy.”
Follow-up at five years (follow-up through interviews only, no testing
or repeat thermography was performed) was used to determine whether the
women with “false positive” examinations had developed breast
cancer. None of these women were followed for eight to ten years, which
is how long it takes for a single cancerous cell to grow into a detectable tumor.
Criteria for diagnosis were the same criteria used today: localized hot
spot, increased heat around one nipple, generalized increased heat in
one breast or localized increase in blood vessels in one breast. A temperature
differential of more than 1.5 degrees centigrade was called significant.
If thermography in a pre-menopausal woman was called positive, the exam
was repeated during the second week of the menstrual cycle, to determine
whether the findings were true, or simply related to hormonal state.
Study results were interesting. 26% of women had a positive thermographic
examination. Of these women about 10% reverted to normal when thermography
was repeated at a different phase of the menstrual cycle.
60% of women diagnosed with breast cancer had an abnormal thermogram. Of
these, about one third were symptomatic by criteria listed above –
skin puckering, lump or abnormal nipple.
The paper’s conclusion was that
sensitivity was 61% (i.e. 61% of proven cancers were detected by thermography) and
specificity was 74% (74% of abnormal thermograms in fact did demonstrate breast cancer.
From an article on MedScape published in April 2016, we read: “Although
mammography remains the most cost-effective approach for breast cancer
sensitivity (67.8%) and
specificity (75%) are not ideal.
Mammography combined with clinical breast examination (CBE) slightly improves
sensitivity (77.4%), with a modest reduction in
specificity (72%)."[ix] Once again, there is no mention of thermography as a screening tool.
These figures are remarkably similar to the figures quoted for thermography.
And yet mammography is promoted as the ideal screening tool, while breast
thermography is ignored, or specifically
An article published in 1972 declared thermography of the breast to be
an “interesting ancillary investigation”.[x] This article also talked about the reason for attempting to get a better
diagnosis of cancer than through biopsy of the tumor. Their reasoning: “It is probable that all methods of biopsy cause the dissemination of cells
from the primary tumour, with the consequent risk of metastatic disease.” Those patients in this series who clearly had breast cancer did
not undergo thermography, which may account for the low numbers of positives
(only 27 out of 359 were found to have cancer, although most of the participants
had some kind of symptomatology related to the breasts). Of the women
in the study, normal thermograms were reported in 164 patients, 7 of whom
who were subsequently diagnosed with cancer, 41 subsequently diagnosed
with benign lesions. The false negative rate was 30% if all 48 patients
with lesions are included, and 4% if only patients with cancer are included.
This author did conclude that thermography was at least worth investigating
further, since “the undoubted attraction of mammary thermography
is its complete safety and the fact that the examination can be repeated
at regular intervals without hazard to the patient.”
By the year 2008 we still have controversy. One article[xi] declares thermography to have great value, especially in women with dense
breasts. Young women tend to have dense breasts – still functional
because of the mammary tissue which is hormone-responsive. And even though
“the combination of mammography and/or ultrasound remains the mainstay
in current breast cancer diagnosis” with mammography being the gold
standard, still we read that
both mammography and ultrasound have poor sensitivity and specificity in
younger women. Diagnosis of breast cancer by mammography depends very much both on the
experience of the radiologist who is interpreting the images, and on the
density of the breasts – i.e. the age of the patients.
7% of breast cancers are diagnosed in women under the age of 40.[xii] That information should not serve to reassure all those young women who
dutifully plan get their annual mammograms starting at age 45 as recommended
by the American Cancer Society.[xiii] Researchers report that since 1976 there has been a small but steady increase
in the incidence of metastatic breast cancer in younger women. Rebecca
H Johnson MD is quoted as saying “I think the rapidity of the increase
suggests possibly the change could be due to something toxic in the environment”.[xiv]
Younger women have a poorer chance of accurate diagnosis than older women.[xv]
Younger women also have a lower 5-year survival rate, according to the
American Cancer Society in 2012.[xvi],
[xvii] Their cancers have lower hormone receptor sensitivity, higher Her2/neu
expression, and higher epidermal growth factor expression. They are also
more likely to have been exposed to persistent low levels of the herbicide
glyphosate at a younger age. That information does not appear on the American
Cancer Society website.
Glyphosate is known to induce breast cancer cell growth by its endocrine-disrupting effect.[xviii] The use of glyphosate in agriculture has increased almost exponentially
since it was first introduced in the early 1970s under the trade name
Roundup®. So unless young women ate organic foods from infancy, they
are at increased risk of aggressive breast cancer.
And now, with passage of the most recent legislation[xix],
[xx] concerning genetically modified foods and their labeling requirements,
it has become even more difficult to determine which foods contain genetically
modified ingredients, and therefore almost certainly contain higher levels
of glyphosate. Food manufacturers have two years to decide which ingredients
they have to label, and how they have to label their products.
Some articles in the literature discuss mathematical models for the use
of thermography for breast cancer screening in medicine. One such article
concludes that, using a mathematical model, the sensitivity results were
excellent (i.e. they diagnosed breast disease well – 58 of 60 biopsy-proven
malignancies were picked up on thermography) but their specificity results
were low (i.e. they could not tell reliably whether a diseased breast
was cancerous, only that it was abnormal).[xxi]
Another interesting tidbit of information which is largely absent from
the critical literature involves circadian rhythm of temperature regulation
of normal breast and cancerous breast tissues.
We have learned from the literature on heart rate variability that children
tend to have large fluctuations in their heart rate associated with breathing
– we call it “sinus arrhythmia” but were never taught
in medical school that absence of that heart rate variability is associated
with increasing severity of disease.
A comparable effect is seen with temperature fluctuations in the breasts.
Normal breasts exhibit temperature variability related to time of day.
This is called circadian rhythm, and is similar to what we see with our
body temperature, and signals which indicate to our bodies that it is
time to regenerate in sleep. Cancerous breasts lose that circadian variability
One researcher states: “genes responsible for circadian rhythm also
regulate many other biological pathways, including cell proliferation,
cell cycle regulation, and apoptosis.”[xxii]
In 2016 we are still reading about the potential use of thermography in
breast cancer diagnosis. The Susan G Komen website is still citing a textbook[xxiii] as evidence that there “is no scientific evidence that thermography
measures of heat can help find breast cancers”. Insurance still
does not cover the cost of the examination.
Women will have to do their own research, and make up their own minds about
the validity of the test. Perhaps the information gathered in this paper
will help them to make that determination.
Our recommendation: young women, start getting breast thermograms in your
mid-30s, while there is still a chance of picking up disease early, without
actually causing disease further down the line.
Thermography performed as a series of images over time is more valuable
than a single thermogram done at one point in time. If increasing inflammation
is noted, there is probably still time for nutritional and lifestyle intervention,
before the inflammation turns irretrievably into cancer.
Our office has a breast thermography special every October, to coincide with “breast cancer awareness” month –
as though every woman in the world isn’t very well aware of the
dangers of undetected breast cancer. We do thermography year ‘round
of course, but in October the rate is discounted by almost 20%.
here for more information on how to schedule your thermography, and to get
instructions on how to prepare for it to get the best possible images.
[xxiii] Lee CI and Elmore JC. Chapter 11. Breast Cancer Screening, in Harris JR,
Lippman ME, Morrow M, Osborne CK.
Diseases of the Breast, 5th edition. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2014.