Thermography – A Safe and Painless Alternative for Breast Cancer Detection

Fifteen years ago my doctor detected a small lump in my left breast that gave her reason for concern.  Within a couple of days I came in for  my first mammogram.  48 hours later I was called back in for a second test because the first was not clear.  It turned out everything was fine and there was no reason for alarm.

Now if you’ve ever had a mammogram you know there is nothing pleasant about it.  A technician takes your breast into her hands and handles it like a piece of playdough to place it just the right way between an x-ray plate and another plastic plate.  Your breast is then squeezed as flat as a pancake so that the x-ray may be taken. Generally, two x-rays are taken of each breast.


{photo Credit:By Rhoda Baer (Photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons}

Knowing how prevalent breast cancer is, however, I am happy to tolerate momentary discomfort to be reassured, once again, that all is well.  I’ve seen too many close friends fall victim to breast cancer to be naive and assume that it could never happen to me. I’ve seen cancer hit women who until their diagnosis had been healthy and strong.  Last month a dear friend of mine who is almost ten years younger than me shared with me that she is fighting breast cancer. I was in complete and utter disbelief.  We’d had coffee together a little less than a month prior and I had complimented her on how amazing she looked! She’d lost weight (not that she needed to) and her skin glowed!  It just shows you how evil this disease is and how it can take anyone by surprise.

I also have a bit of a family history, indirect perhaps but it’s there nonetheless. Two years ago I was shaken when I learned that my mom’s cousin, who beat breast cancer more than 15 years ago, found a new 10 centimeter lump in her other breast. She had a mastectomy and follow up treatments and is doing amazingly well, but this hit me hard.  We later learned that she cancer in other parts of her body but by the grace of God, she seems to have beaten that one too! She is another one of my modern day heroes.  I saw shortly after her surgery and nothing in her composure would have made you think she was battling cancer. So stoic and gracious!

A few weeks ago I received my notice that I am due for my mammogram once again but as I picked up the phone to make my appointment I decided to ask about an alternative testing method called thermography.  I’ve had so many CT Scans and X-rays that I try to avoid radiation unless it is absolutely necessary.

I first learned about thermography a little over a year ago from Justice Nacarrato, a licensed thermography technician.  After my conversation with Justice I asked her if she could write an article about it as I believe every woman should know about this alternative method for breast cancer detection. You can read her article below.

Frankly I don’t know why this is not the preferred method as it seems to be far more effective than what most of us are offered.

Thermography is more like a sophisticated ultra sound than an x-ray and apparently can detect cancerous cells at a much earlier stage than a mammogram.  Unfortunately my healthcare provider does not offer this option so this is one medical expense I will have to fund on my own.  But with breast cancer in my family I’d much rather be proactive and get the best test available.

Thermography, A Safe Alternative to Mammograms


by Justice Nacarrato

Millions of women this year will endure the pain and radiation of a mammogram not realizing that they have a safe, painless, radiation free, FDA approved alternative. Thermography or as it is also called, Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI) is a technology so advanced that it is also used to detect many other physiological issues such as inflammatory breast disease which a mammogram cannot.


Thermography is a 30 year old proven technology that uses an individual’s unique heat signature to detect possible pathologies such as breast cancer. Cancer cells double in size every 90 days. Thermography can detect possible cancer at 256 cells or 2 years. A mammogram requires over 4 billion cells or 8 years to detect cancer. That gives a woman a six year head start on early detection and treatment. The key, as any doctor will advise, is early detection and intervention.

Mammography and ultrasound depend primarily on structural distinction and anatomical variation of the tumor from the surrounding breast tissue while Infrared imaging detects minute temperature variations related to vascular flow and can demonstrate abnormal vascular patterns associated with the initiation and progression of tumors.

The newest generation of equipment, such as used by Meditherm centers, measures a difference in body temperature of 1/100th of a degree. Thermography relies on the fact that every person’s heat signature is unique and that any variation in the signature may signal a pathology.

Cancer produces its own blood vessels in a process called angiogenesis. These are the “feeder” systems for cancer that rely on sugar to survive. Thermography can detect these anomalies sometimes as far in advance as 6 years before a mammogram. This gives the patient a huge jump on the disease. Additionally, thermography can detect inflammatory breast disease (IBD) when mammography cannot.

By performing thermography years before conventional mammography, a selected patient population at risk can be monitored more carefully, and thereby accurately utilize mammography or ultrasound as soon as is possible to detect the actual lesion – (once it has grown large enough and dense enough to be seen on mammographic film), can increase the patients treatment options and ultimately improve the outcome.

It is in this role that thermography provides it’s most practical benefit to the general public and to the medical profession. It is certainly an adjunct to the appropriate usage of mammography and not a competitor. In fact, thermography has the ability to identify patients at the highest risk and actually increase the effective usage of mammographic imaging procedures.

Thermography, with its non-radiation, non-contact and low-cost basis has been clearly demonstrated to be a valuable and safe early risk marker of breast pathology, and an excellent case management tool for the ongoing monitoring and treatment of breast disease when used under carefully controlled clinical protocols.

Getting a thermogram done is painless. The patient simply goes to a certified thermographer, sits in front of a thermogram camera and 5 images are taken with this specialized equipment. No pain. No radiation.
The images and patient history are electronically sent to a group of M.D.’s or thermologists who are trained to interpret the results. The results and report are returned to the patient and/or their primary care physician usually within 4 days. It is fast, painless and accurate.

Women over forty are usually told to have an annual mammogram and there are many reasons for this:

  1. Women over forty are considered at higher risk for breast cancer
  2. Breast tissue is more dense in women under forty and therefore cancer is more difficult to detect.
  3. This density of tissue means more radiation is absorbed and can actually be harmful.

Another advantage to thermography is its broad based ability to detect other pathologies that mammography cannot. These include inflammatory breast disease, coronary artery disease, deep vein thrombosis, structural problems, carpal tunnel syndrome and a host of other problems.

One day there may be a single method for the early detection of breast cancer. Until then, using a combination of methods will increase your chances of detecting cancer in an early stage. These methods include :

  • Mammography for all women who are aged 40 or older
  • Regular DITI screening for women of all ages
  • A regular breast examination by a health professional

Breast cancer has already claimed too many lives. All of us know at least one friend or relative who has suffered form this terrible disease. And though much progress is being made in available therapies, early detection is still our best chance at combating this illness.

About the Author

Justice Nacarrato has been involved in clinical work since her junior and senior high school days where she assisted her father, Dr. Hugh Smith, founder of Biocytonics, in his blood morphology research.

She began her own practice in with her husband Brian in Washington State where they conducted a successful thermography clinic. Doctors and hospitals call upon her expertise to assist in complimentary adjuncts to mammography.

She now resides in Southern California where she carries on the family tradition in blood morphology as well as thermography.

Justice is a Certified Clinical Thermologist certified by the American College of Clinical Thermographers (ACCT). She sits on the board of the American Medical Thermology Society (AMTS) and the Camp Stix Fundraising Auction Committee as Facility Chair.

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  1. I had never heard of this before. Thank you for sharing such valuable information that everyone should be aware of.

  2. What great info! I will ask about this as I am about to schedule my 1st screenings!

  3. I find mammos pretty uncomfortable as well, but necessary. If I had to guess I’d say thermography is a lot newer and maybe just not enough clinical data to make it a standard. And I’m sure cost is a factor as well.

    • I suspect it has more to do with cost than clinical data Val. It’s newer than mammograms but has still being around long enough for the data to be convincing. Mammograms are basically an Xray and fairly inexpensive compared to anything else. But repeated exposure to radiation is extremely unhealthy and can lead to cancer in and of itself so I personally prefer to limit my exposure whenever possible.

  4. I would love to try the alternative method. I haven’t even heard of it until now.

  5. This is really interesting. I never heard of this type of imaging before. I am going to pass it onto my friends and family and talk to my doctor about early imaging.

    • I love that Chelley! I was thrilled to find out that one of my friends has been getting this kind of imaging for several years now and has a great doctor she could recommend. Thanks for passing it along 🙂

  6. I’ve never heard of it but i will start spreading the word to people who haven’t heard of it either.

  7. I’ve never heard of it but i will start spreading the word to people who haven’t heard of it either.

    • Thanks Mya! I would love for every woman to know about this so she can make an educated choice about what is the best test option for her. I suspect if more of us ask our doctors for thermography instead of mammograms this technology will become more easily available. Thanks for spreading the word!!

  8. I have not had a mammogram yet but from what I’ve heard of them, they do sound horrifying. I have a few years to go so I am curious to see if this alternative solution is more commonplace?

    • Mammograms are not exactly comfortable Emily, but the main reason I’m sharing this info is in the hopes that if more of us start requesting this test instead of a mammogram, thermography will become more easily available and more women will have a chance to beat breast cancer if it is detected sooner.

  9. Wow! Incredible to know this. I will certainly be checking if this is an option instead of the mammogram. Too many people are getting breast cancer despite mammograms being a option. Maybe this would change things.

    • I agree with you Lesley, way too many women are getting breast cancer, despite our heightened awareness and proactive measures. Thermography sounds very promising to me and if it allows for earlier detection I’m hopeful that as more women become aware of this options, we will start to see a decrease in cancers.

  10. alicia szemon says:

    very interesting! i had this done before. it is cool

  11. I was not aware of this option and thank you for sharing this with us.

  12. Patti Brown says:

    I had not heard of this before reading this article. Thank you for sharing this information. My regular doctor is leaving, so once a new doctor is in place, I will ask him/her about this. I am hoping there is a place nearby where I can have this done.

  13. Molli vandehey says:

    ive never heard of this but it is awesome!

  14. This looks awesome. With the mamogram I always have to go back and get it done again.

    • I have heard nothing but good things about Thermography Terry and wish this was the method of choice everywhere. It should at least be offered to everyone since it is so much more effective. I have had to repeat mammograms on several occasions as well and frankly I just don’t like all that radiation, especially knowing there is a much safer alternative.

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