By the early 1960’s, diagnostic infrared imaging had demonstrated effectiveness for breast cancer in the hands of a few specialized investigators. By 1974, the very favorable results from some small trials prompted the inclusion of thermography into a large-scale study funded by the National Cancer Institute: The Breast Cancer Detection and Demonstration Project (1). Unfortunately, this study was seriously flawed by the lack of specifics and standardization of equipment, technique, analytic criteria and reporting. The resulting failure of this study was widely misinterpreted as a failure of breast thermography - an impression that was often promulgated by other imaging specialists with competitive and proprietary disinterests. Thermography languished in the United States for more than twenty (20) years but was effectively developed in Europe and East Asia with large-scale studies. In 1976, the results of studies at the prestigious Pasteur University in Marseille, France, established an objective analytic system (2, 3). This system has been refined by enhanced knowledge of basic science and the outcome-based clinical studies but remains the basis for reporting breast thermology to this day.
Termed the Marseille system, this analytic method provides for a standardized TH-1 TH-5 scale as a summary based upon specific, objective and quantitative thermal features and differential levels of infrared energy. Thermal features are divided into Signs and Criteria based upon their established characterization of breast disease (2, 3).
At this time, there are no comprehensive national standards for medical thermology and the medical consumer will have a no real ability to evaluate the relative abilities, claims and quality from a broad range of providers. Some providers have invented novel “professional boards” to give the illusion of a meaningful accreditation to pretentious thermologists without any training or experience prior to a weekend course. You should screen the providers of medical thermology that are accredited and certified by the American Board of Thermology.
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