It was only recently that we stumbled on some news about researchers from the Dartmouth Medical School testing “new imaging techniques to find breast abnormalities, including cancer.” One of the ways these researchers were scanning for cancer was by using near-infrared imaging technology.
One system utilizing a similar scanning technique is already on the market. It is called the Sentinel BreastScan, from Infrared Sciences Corp., a New York based company.
Here’s more about this company’s device:
Indications for Use:
The Infrared Sciences BreastScanIR System is intended for viewing and recording heat patterns generated by the human body in the hospital, acute care settings, outpatient surgery, healthcare practitioner facilities or in an environment where patient care is provided by qualified healthcare personnel. The patient population includes adults. The device is for adjunctive diagnostic screening for detection of breast cancer and diseases affecting blood perfusion or reperfusion of tissue or organs…
Is infrared able to detect cancer early? What does infrared detect?
Numerous studies have shown that infrared can detect the signs of developing cancer years before modalities such as mammography; by up to 10 years, and that it is a good indicator of risk for breast cancer.
Infrared is able to detect the physiologic changes that are often associated with developing disease, as well as the detection of neo-angiogenesis (new blood vessels that develop to feed cancerous tumors). Much of the past and current uses of this technology made measurements that, in one way or another, assessed the differences when comparing both breasts. Symmetry between breasts is one of the most telling signs that can be measured and quantified by the Sentinel BreastScan system. The determination of areas within the breasts that show a high degree of blood perfusion, or vessels that may be angiogenic, are also of importance. ISC has developed proprietary software that locates these areas accurately, and is able to assign a value for the degree of abnormality. In nearly 100% of cases where there was a localized cancer (excluding inflammatory breast disease which may involve the whole breast), the Sentinel BreastScan has accurately identified the location. A doctor using this “road map” of sites that exhibit abnormal signs, can then make a very thorough evaluation of the area. In some cases where these sites are within dense tissue and a proper assessment cannot be made by mammography, other modalities, such as ultrasound or MRI, may be indicated…
How does Sentinel BreastScan work?
Sentinel BreastScan applies the medical knowledge of angiogenesis in order to quickly and harmlessly assess a patient’s risk of having breast cancer. During the exam the patient sits in a chair disrobed from the waist up, with her arms on the armrests. In front of the patient is the Sentinel BreastScan equipment, including the infrared camera, a cool air source, a video display so the patient can see her own infrared image in real time, and the operator’s station. Once the exam begins the patient’s thermal images will be recorded for analysis. A few seconds later the cool air source is turned on. The cool air source remains on for approximately 3-4 minutes. Once the cool air source is turned off the exam is complete. At this point the software within the system can analyze the recorded images for possible abnormalities. The system searches the images for signs of abnormal angiogenesis, as well as several other known thermal indicators. The analysis takes approximately 4-5 minutes and a report is generated by the system.
Infrared Sciences is reporting that its device is demonstrating sensitivity of over 98% and specificity is measured at just over 50% “on an immediate time scale.” As you can see, though the idea of breast thermography has been around a long time, technology improvements are moving this diagnostic modality in the right direction.