Thermal Camera at Tourist Attraction Spots Cancer

Woman noticed a heat spot over one breast
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2019 10:55 AM CDT
Woman's Trip to Tourist Attraction Clues Her In to Breast Cancer
Stock photo. CNN has the actual thermal image of the woman.   (Getty Images/AnitaVDB)

A woman's visit to a tourist attraction in Scotland ended up being an important stroke of luck for her health. Bal Gill, 41, used the thermal imaging camera at Edinburgh's Camera Obscura & World of Illusions back in May, and when looking back through the images from it later, she noticed a heat patch over one breast. She brought it up with her doctor, and was ultimately diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, CNN reports. "I just wanted to say thank you: Without that camera, I would never have known," Gill writes in a letter to the museum published on its website. "I know its not the intention of the camera but for me, it really was a life-changing visit. I cannot tell you enough about how my visit to the Camera Obscura changed my life."

While thermal imaging, which the BBC reports measures the temperature of the skin's surface, is sometimes used by oncologists (which is what clued Gill in to the idea that she should talk to her doctor), experts say that those reading Gill's story shouldn't plan to rely on the next thermal imaging camera they run across. "In the past thermal imagining cameras have been experimented with to detect cancer; however, this has never been a proven screening tool," says one doctor. Adds another, "Thermography devices are not sensitive or specific enough to be a trusted method to detect breast cancer—in Ms. Gill's case the discovery was serendipitous." Mammograms are the tried and true way to diagnose breast cancer. As for Gill, she says she's had two surgeries and one more is planned to keep the cancer from spreading. (More breast cancer stories.)

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