Thermography in Your Wellness Toolbox
By Ms. Shawn Seuferer, Thermography of Wisconsin
“Ther..thermo…What?” is often how the conversation starts when Shawn Seuferer, owner of Thermography of Wisconsin, tells people that she “does” thermography. The following terms may be helpful to understand what thermography is and its use in the health care industry.
Thermology is the science which studies infrared images of the body. Thermography is the use of a specialized camera to detect and record temperature gradients and differentials at the surface of the skin. The resulting image, or scan, is the thermogram and technicians conducting the scans are called thermographers. During the scan, the thermographer will assign a color scale to the image. It is important to note that the colors assigned are arbitrary and do not relate to a specific disease, health condition, or blood flow. The colors serve only to provide a means to distinguish temperature variation. Thermologists, which are trained medical doctors, read the scans and provide the patient with a written report of their interpretation of images and provide recommendations.
Thermography is not considered a diagnostic test, and does not detect or diagnose cancer. It does not detect structure, such as that of a tumor, lumps, densities or calcifications. Rather, it measures changes in physiology, or function, such as inflammation, vascular change, lymphatic change and hormonal change. Neither is thermography to be considered as a “stand-alone” test but should be considered an adjunct to other accepted methods of monitoring breast health, including mammograms, physical exam and self-exam.
Many women, justifiably, fear a breast cancer diagnosis. It is important for us all to consider that our health is a matter of mind, body and spirit. Fearful thoughts can cause a cascade of negative effects on one’s health and well-being.
Seuferer recommends looking at breast care holistically and proactively building a team of specialists, therapies and tools to help monitor and maintain health and vitality. Positive attitude, regular exercise, healthy diet and restorative rest are all important factors which affect breast health.
Thermography is an excellent tool in the team’s toolbox. The screening process is non-invasive, pain-free and is without radiation. Because it is sensitive to temperature at the surface of the skin, patients should avoid stimulating therapies and treatments within three days prior to their scan, such as chiropractic, acupuncture, massage and excessive sun exposure. Also, strenuous exercise, shaving, deodorants and lotions should be avoided the day of a scan. Thermography is sensitive to hormonal changes. Patients should wait at least three months following fertility treatments and discontinuing breast feeding, or any surgery on the breast including implants, reduction or reconstruction.
Breast scans are like our thumbprints. They are unique to each one of us and cannot be compared to anyone else’s. New patients are required to establish a baseline by having a follow-up scan in three to four months following their first screening. This is the length of time in which changes in physiology, such as vascularization, are most likely show. Without a follow-up scan to establish a baseline, a change in physiology could not be observed. If the thermologist determines that the second scan is stable, the baseline is established, and the patient may be advised to continue with annual scanning.
Thermography of Wisconsin serves patients at the main office in Eau Claire, WI, in River Falls, WI, and Park Rapids and Northfield, MN. Ms. Seuferer is a Certified Clinical Thermographer and a member of the American College of Clinical Thermology (ACCT).