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Infrared Cameras: An Emerging Technology In Medicine

Who says all cancer patients have to die? Cancer is deadly, but it need not kill. Through timely detection and proper treatment, it is possible to survive the Big C. Medical practitioners are now turning to technology to detect the presence of cancer cells and keep them from spreading; and what better way to spot the presence of cancer cells or ensure its complete removal than through infrared cameras?

An infrared camera, also known as thermographic camera, is a device that uses infrared radiation to form an image. It was originally developed for military use. Over the years, however, the infrared camera has become the equipment of choice not only by law enforcers and intelligence officers, but also by doctors and archaeologists.

By far the most dramatic and useful application of the infrared camera is in the field of medicine. Infrared cameras have been found to be very effective in cancer screening.

Detecting Breast Cancer
Infrared cameras are used to identify vascular thermal patterns in breasts. These patterns are usually signs of the early-stage development of breast cancer. In a process known as thermography, vascular conditions called angiogenesis are easily detected. What makes the use of infrared cameras in breast cancer detection particularly dramatic is that thermal imaging systems reveal angiogenesis years before mammograms are able to detect them.

Understanding Infrared Thermography
In infrared thermography, an infrared camera measures temperature differences occurring in different body parts. These cameras create pictures pointing to areas of the body where abnormal cell growth is suspected. Infrared cameras are able to do this because abnormal tissues give off more heat than normal tissues. What this means is that under an infrared probe, body parts with unusual cell growth show up quite clearly.

Pinpointing Skin Cancer Cells
Experts also look into the possibility of using infrared technology to map out the roots of skin cancer. Infrared cameras are made to distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous lesions. Should this procedure be approved for widespread application, it will eliminate the need for cost-intensive physical examinations and tissue biopsies.

Finding Brain Tumors
By far the hardest of all cancers to remove is brain cancer. When surgeons operate on the brain, they try to do two things: magnify the tumor as precisely and clearly as they can, and remove as much of it as possible. The problem with this procedure, however, is that brain tumor tissues look very much similar to healthy tissues. It is, thus, possible for doctors to accidentally take out healthy tissues along with the cancer cells, or leave behind cancer cells that would eventually regrow into tumors.

Doctors at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California are now studying the possibility of sketching tumor margins through recognition of temperature changes during surgery. Because tumor cells emit more heat compared to healthy ones, infrared cameras will show doctors the boundaries between tumor regions and the surrounding healthy tissues.

Embracing Infrared Imaging
The best thing about cancer screening through infrared technology is that its non-invasive. Thermal imaging measures heat energy coming from patients. With infrared cameras, there won't be any need to expose patients to X-rays, intravenous solutions, or incisions.

Infrared technology is still in its beta phase, and has a long way to go before it gains general acceptance. This early, however, many are hopeful that infrared cameras will revolutionize cancer detection and treatment. With prudent and proper application of technology, cancer patients need not die senselessly.

Submitted by:

Nahshon Roberts

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