A new review of research released by the New Zealand Breast Thermography Association (www.nzbta.org.nz) Wednesday has revealed that thermography is a highly effective tool for predicting breast cancer risk. To date, the most important risk factor for developing breast cancer, aside from being female and getting older, is having a family history of the disease. While considered significant, a family history accounts for only 5 – 10% of breast cancers diagnosed, while 60 – 70% of women diagnosed have no recognised risk factors. What this means is that women are largely in the dark when it comes to understanding their personal risk of developing the disease.
“The results of the literature review show that a persistently abnormal thermogram is an extremely strong indicator of breast cancer risk” says medical researcher Corene Humphreys BHSc, ND. “A persistently abnormal thermogram is considered by a number of researchers to be ‘the single greatest indicator of breast cancer risk’, and ten times more important than a family history of the disease.” she continues.
Breast thermography was recently in the media spotlight after the National Screening Unit in conjunction with cancer organisations expressed their concern about thermography being used as a replacement to mammography and traditional screening methods. A spokesperson for the National Screening Unit, Dr Julia Peters, stated in their press release that breast thermography is being promoted as a “breast cancer screening option”. Allison Roe, spokesperson for Clinical Thermography, the largest breast thermography provider in New Zealand said on Wednesday “The NSU’s statement that thermography is being promoted as a stand-alone ‘breast cancer screening option’ is incorrect and misleading as to the real benefits provided by thermography”. “Thermography helps women understand their risk of developing breast cancer, whilst having the benefit of being a non-contact, radiation free procedure” she continues. “It is not promoted as a replacement to mammography”.
The literature review highlights studies that show that more than 30% of women with a persistently abnormal thermogram, but a normal mammogram develop breast cancer over the following ten years. “The results of this review paves the way for thermography to be used to identify women at a high risk of developing breast cancer so they can be monitored more closely” said Auckland gynaecologist Chris Heron. “Once these women are identified, we can then work with them to help them reduce their risk of a problem developing further, through things like exercise, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol, and looking very carefully at their diet and other risk factors. Used in this way, an abnormal thermogram can act as an alert, and a strong motivating factor for the individual to take better care of themselves.”
Breast Thermography works by looking at the heat at the surface of the skin, which gives an indication of the physiology and blood flow within the tissue. As a breast cancer requires its own blood supply in order to grow, studies indicate that a persistent abnormal thermogram can be a significant finding. A breast cancer has often been growing for a number of years before it is discovered through mammography. Breast thermography, whilst not replacing mammography or other tests, offers an insight into the physiology and general metabolism of the breast tissue.
Breast thermography was approved by the Food and Drug Administration of America in 1982, and reapproved in 2003 for “adjunctive diagnostic screening for the detection of breast cancer”, and used alongside other testing has been shown to increase detection of breast cancers.