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Breast Thermography Definition

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Updated November 23, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition: Breast thermography is an imaging technique that uses infrared sensors to map the differences in heat levels on the surface of your breasts. Since tumors need blood flow to grow and live, areas of increased heat indicate greater blood circulation that may be related to tumors.

The thermogram is a map of heat levels that looks similar to a geographic contour map: cooler areas are shown in light colors, warmer areas appear in darker colors. Colored thermograms can be used to look for inflammation, and gray scale thermograms can show blood vessel circulation.

Pronunciation: ther-MO-gru-fee
Also Known As: Digital infrared imaging, infrared mammography, breast thermoscan, breast thermal imaging, Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI)
Examples:
A breast thermogram detects physiologic changes, but cannot locate the exact area of suspicion inside the breast. Breast thermography is not used to diagnose cancer, but to monitor changes in blood circulation. Thermography does not use compression, radiation, or any contrast agent. A breast thermogram does not replace a mammogram but serves as a complement to it.
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