Thermal image courtesy of Karla Porter
BY SUE MISAO
A non-radiation medical procedure that may lead to early breast cancer detection will be offered in the Methow Valley beginning in July.
Breast thermography is the use of infrared photography to show concentrations of heat patterns that may indicate the presence of cancer cells forming, said Karla Porter, a certified thermographer at Insight Thermography in Spokane. Porter will travel to Winthrop several times a year to provide thermal imaging at the office of Dr. Sierra Breitbeil, N.D.
Thermal imaging is not a substitute for mammography, said Porter, but a “risk assessment tool.” Women who ordinarily wouldn’t start getting mammograms until age 40 or 50 can get a head start on their breast health assessment by getting thermograms in their 20s without the harmful risks associated with mammography, said Porter, including radiation, breast compression and unnecessary interventions due to false positive results.
Thermography has been FDA approved since 1982 as an adjunct to mammography to greatly increase detection rates, said Porter.
“It is 100 percent safe,” said Porter. “Typically, a mammogram will detect a mass that is already 5 to 10 years old.” Because cancer cells require increased blood flow, the resulting increase in heat will appear in a thermal image long before a tumor is formed.
Porter recommends getting a first thermal image at age 20, which creates a base “fingerprint,” that can be compared to subsequent imaging every couple years.
Images that show changes or increases of heat in the breast will help patients decide on further treatment, including mammography, biopsy, or changes in diet and lifestyle. The images are analyzed by a board-certified medical thermographer.
Early detection of breast cancer is key to successful treatment, said Porter. “If all women knew what this technology could do for them it would always be their first choice,” she said.
The cost of thermography ranges from $200-$250, and Porter also offers an additional clinical breast exam at the time of the imaging. She does not bill patients’ insurance, so clients will need to make arrangements on their own.
Porter will be offering thermal imaging at Methow Valley Wellness Center on Saturday, July 13. To schedule an appointment, call Dr. Breitbeil at 996-3970.