An Adjunct to Traditional Breast Screening
by Sheila Julson
Many conventional health care practitioners consider mammograms the gold standard of breast screening; however, digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) is gaining popularity among women seeking other screening options. As DITI technology becomes more sophisticated, it’s also piquing the interest of more physicians, says Michelle Hart, owner of San Antonio-based DITI Imaging. The business has a permanent office in Austin, as well as eight satellite locations throughout south Texas.
Hart, who is a breast cancer survivor, learned about digital thermography breast screening from a natural health care practitioner. “It’s a different type of breast screening that’s non-invasive, so nothing touches the body, and it does not utilize radiation, so there’s no risk involved,” she explains. “It’s a test of vascular physiology, which has to do with vascular changes that are going on in the tissue that typically precede a tumor being of a size and density that can be seen on an x-ray.”
Because a mammogram is an x-ray, sensitive breast tissue has to be compressed as thin as possible for the x-rays to go through, causing much patient discomfort for many; therefore, Hart notes that many women dread going in for their annual mammogram screenings. “When a woman learns that she has a safe, effective option that doesn’t hurt or expose her to radiation, she’s usually more compliant to get her annual screening.”
The technology of thermography was developed in the 1950s for military applications, and it was approved for clinical use in 1982. Technological advances over the years have provided thermography the ability to pick up on tissue changes years in advance of a tumor showing up on a mammogram. Hart notes that an average tumor can be present for five to 10 years before it finally shows up on an x-ray.
Although thermography is one of four options available for breast screening—along with mammography, ultrasound and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)—Hart says none of the methods alone can assure 100 percent accuracy. “They all screen for abnormalities, and each does it in a different way,” she says. “Thermography is not intended to take the place of a mammogram because it’s a totally different type of test that looks at physiology, and mammograms look at anatomy. However, not all women are good candidates for mammography.”
Women that come to DITI Imaging for a breast screening are provided with basic pre-scan instructions. The patient disrobes from the waist-up and puts on a hospital gown, and then she is taken to a temperature-controlled cool room for about 10 minutes so the body can cool down. During that time, the patient completes intake and history forms.
For the scan, the patient sits on a stool in front of a DITI camera, and the technician takes images and pictures of the infrared heat that naturally radiates from the body as a result of blood flow. Images are then sent for interpretation to Electronic Medical Interpretation, Inc., a team of physicians that reads the images and write the reports. DITI Imaging then sends reports to the patient and her health care provider. No order or prescription is required.
Patients return three months later for a repeat thermography screening to establish a stable baseline for future comparisons. “Every woman has a unique thermal pattern, just like a fingerprint,” Hart says.
A digital thermography breast screening costs less than a conventional mammogram; a patient’s first visit costs $195, the second visit costs $155 and annual visits cost $175. DITI Imaging also makes payment arrangements for established patients on a case-by-case basis.
“We work really hard to keep it affordable and available to the masses,” says Hart. “It’s my goal in life to educate women and make them more proactive in their health care choices.”
DITI Imaging is located at 1101 S. Capital of Texas Hwy., Bldg. K, Ste. 100, Austin. For more information, call 866-409-2506 or visit ditiImaging.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.