Breast cancer continues to be a dominant concern in women's healthcare. It has become the most common disease in many developed countries and is on the rise in developing countries. Limitations of mammography as a screening and diagnostic modality, especially in young women with dense breasts, necessitated the development of novel and more effective modalities with better sensitivity and specificity. Currently, there are several noninvasive techniques for detecting breast cancer. These techniques are based on ionizing radiation (mammography, computed tomography), nuclear imaging (scintimammography, positron emission tomography), light properties (optical imaging), thermal properties (thermography), electrical properties (electrical impedance tomography, electrical impedance scanning), magnetic properties (magnetic resonance imaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy), and acoustic properties (ultrasound, elastography). Each of these modalities has advantages and limitations in terms of effectiveness, cost, radiation exposure risk, speed, and patient comfort.
In this work, we investigated the effectiveness of infrared (IR) thermography in detecting breast cancer. Thermal imaging (thermography) is a noninvasive imaging procedure used for recording thermal patterns (called thermograms) with an IR camera. Changes can be detected and measured in the skin temperature of clinically healthy and cancerous breasts. Metabolic activity and vascular circulation in precancerous tissue and its surrounding areas are often higher than in normal breast tissue. Cancerous tumors increase circulation to their cells to supply nutrients by opening existing blood vessels, dormant (inactive) vessels, and new vessels. This increased circulation results in an increase in regional surface temperature of the breast that can be detected by IR imaging. Thermography involves the use of medical IR cameras and computers to detect and produce high-quality images of temperature variations. Most breast cancer detection modalities are used for locating the tumor. Infrared imaging, on the other hand, focuses on finding thermal signs that suggest the presence of an early-stage tumor that cannot be detected physically, or suggest a precancerous stage based on small variations in normal blood vessel activity. Thus, the earliest signs of breast cancer and the precancerous state of the breast can be observed in the temperature spectrum.