by Dr. Tom Hudson, Radiologist and Thermologist
Director of Breast Imaging, Naples Community Hospital Outpatient Centers; Dr. Hudson is a diagnostic radiologist specializing in mammography and breast imaging. He attended medical school at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and completed his residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. After his time in the Army he settled in Naples, FL, where he served as Director of Women’s Imaging at Naples Diagnostic Imaging Centers (NDIC). Since 2005, Dr. Hudson has been an independent women’s imaging consultant, most recently at the prestigious Women’s Center for Radiology in Orlando, FL.
“Which one is better—a mammogram or a thermogram?” That’s what everyone wants to know. It’s a perfectly logical question, one I am asked everywhere I go. But it’s the wrong question. It’s more complex than that. Yes, both tests can produce images of the breasts, and both offer the possibility of early breast cancer detection, but other than that, they have nothing in common. They’re different tests, produced in different ways, showing completely different things.
Mammography involves radiation and breast compression. Thermography requires neither. Mammography shows anatomy (structure). Thermography measures subtle temperature changes in the skin associated with underlying pathology. It is a physiological test only. It cannot “see” a cancer. Mammography can detect cancers very early, as small as a few millimeters. Thermography can detect physiologic changes associated with a cancer while it is still at a cellular level—before it becomes visible on a mammogram.
Thermography has other unique abilities as well. It can indicate estrogen dominance, an imbalance in estrogen levels associated with higher breast cancer risk. It can detect lymphatic congestion, also a precursor to disease. The effects of diet can also be clearly seen. Women on a typical Western diet who switch to a healthier, plant-based diet, show remarkable improvement in their thermal patterns.
In short, thermography is a way to monitor breast health, not just a way to detect breast disease. Mammography can show you if you have a cancer or not, but other than that it has little purpose. Thermography offers a woman the chance to become aware of worrisome physiological changes before there is a diagnosable cancer—which is when risk-reduction strategies such as diet, exercise, and stress reduction are most effective.
The unique ability to detect changes suspicious of breast cancer before it can be seen on a mammogram is both the promise and the dilemma of thermography. The promise, because every woman wants a better early warning system; the dilemma, because it flies in the face of conventional medical thought.
The thermography/mammography debate is a microcosm of the debate between alternative and conventional medicine, which explains much of the confusion and controversy surrounding the matter. Thermography is firmly rooted in the alternative world, where the concept of disease prevention through lifestyle change is well-accepted. Conventional medicine is based on surgical procedures and pharmaceuticals. It can’t deal with something that is too early to be diagnosed. Only you can do that.
As medicine becomes more integrative, many of these issues will disappear. Thermography will become more accepted as paradigms change and perspectives broaden. Thermography doesn’t replace mammography. It is not FDA approved as a stand-alone test. It adds a much needed piece to the puzzle, providing risk information and possible early warning that mammography cannot. It can help you become aware of your breast health. It’s not just another way to find disease.