Medical infrared thermography, the technology used in the 1950s for military night vision, is now being used to provide early risk assessment of breast health in Qualicum Beach.
The specialized infrared cameras detect asymmetrical blood vessel circulation, which is an indication of a risk for developing breast cancer, according to Glenda Neufeld who opened the Vancouver Island Thermography Clinic last October.
Thermography, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1982, takes infrared images that measure the heat generated by the microcirculation of blood to areas that could be at risk.
Neufeld explained the scientific rationale that before the growth of abnormal cells can occur, an increased blood supply forms, which doctors can detect very early.
She pointed out the screening is only an indication of risk factors and is not diagnostic, which can only be done by biopsy.
The FDA recently stressed that thermography is not a substitute for mammography, which they said doctors still rely on as the primary tool for finding physical lumps.
But the use of thermography is growing as a useful addition to the process, according to Lisa Leger, local woman’s health educator. It can be an attractive preliminary screening option for women with painful or sensitive breasts, dense breast tissue, fibrocystic breasts, pregnant and nursing women and women with implants, she said by e-mail.
Neufeld sends the images electronically to Dr. Alexander Mostovoy, clinic director of Thermography Clinic Inc. in Ontario for expert analysis.
“With proper use of breast self-exam, physician exams, thermography and mammography together, 95 percent of early-stage cancers will be detected,” Mostovoy said. “Every woman should know her risk for breast cancer.”
Neufeld earned her thermography technician certification training with Mostovoy, and said her patients appreciate knowing there is a personal connection.
She said women feel empowered by the information they receive from the screening.
“Those with low-risk ratings are determined to keep it that way, and committed to monitoring their breast health through thermography,” she said. “Women who have higher risk ratings leave my office ready to take action on prevention and find help from the many dedicated health practitioners that Vancouver Island has to offer.”
She explained that patients put their hands in cold water before the procedure to alter the blood flow for the heat-detecting camera to pick up.
Leger attests to the painlessness of the procedure, having tried it herself.
“It’s just like getting your picture taken with your top off, only you have to put your hands in cold water between shots.”
Call 250-947-5424 or visit www.thermographyvancouverisland.com for more on the local clinic.
— with files from