Breast cancer patient claims thermal imaging camera at Edinburgh museum led to her diagnosis after it revealed an abnormal ‘hot spot’ on her chest
- Bal Gill, 41, was visiting World of Illusions in Edinburgh during a family holiday
- A thermal camera showed a hot spot in her left breast that no one else had
- Concerned, she visited her GP and was later diagnosed with breast cancer
- Thermography is, however, not considered as accurate as a mammogram
A woman claims she discovered she had breast cancer after she had a picture taken by a thermal imaging camera at a tourist attraction.
Bal Gill, 41, was visiting Camera Obscura and World of Illusions in Edinburgh during a holiday in May.
One of the attraction’s many features is the Thermal Camera, which was installed in 2009 and lets visitors see a heat map across their body.
But Ms Gill’s picture showed a yellow-coloured ‘hot spot’ on her left breast, and no-one else in the thermal imaging room had the same patch.
Ms Gill, of Slough in Berkshire, decided to make an appointment to see her doctor because of the abnormal spot.
She was later diagnosed with breast cancer in its early stages, and has thanked the popular tourist attraction for saving her life.
Bal Gill discovered she had breast cancer after she had a picture taken by a thermal imaging camera at a tourist attraction in Edinburgh. A yellow patch on her left breast is seen
Ms Gill said: ‘I visited with my family in May 2019 during the school holidays. We had been to Edinburgh Castle and on the way down we saw the museum.
‘While making our way through the floors we got to the thermal imaging camera room.
‘As all families do, we entered and started to wave our arms and look at the images created.
‘While doing this I noticed a heat patch coming from my left breast. We thought it was odd and having looked at everyone else they didn’t have the same.’
Ms Gill added: ‘I took a picture and we carried on and enjoyed the rest of the museum.’
When Ms Gill got home she was flicking through her holiday snaps when she noticed the thermal pictures again.
Bal Gill, 41, was visiting Camera Obscura and World of Illusions in Edinburgh (pictured) during a holiday in May
HOW DID THE THERMAL CAMERA DETECT BREAST CANCER?
Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) is the type of thermography that has the possibility to help diagnose breast cancer.
As cancel cells multiply, they need oxygen from blood. The increase of blood flow to the site can increase the temperature.
There may also be more inflammation in the tissue, which will show up as red patterns.
DITI reveals temperature differences on the surface of the breasts and is used by breast cancer specialists.
Thermography has been available for several decades, but there is no evidence to show that it’s a good screening tool.
Mammograms, which are X-ray images of the breasts, are considered far more accurate in detecting cancer, so thermography is not used often.
Thermography can also give false-positive results, meaning it detects cancer cells when they aren’t any there and doesn’t detect them when they are there.
But there are still clinics, such as Harley Street Clinic in Central London, which offer thermography, claiming to spot breast cancer ‘years earlier’ than a mammography can.
The FDA said in February 2019 that thermography is not a substitute for a mammogram.
It said: ‘There is no valid scientific data to demonstrate that thermography devices, when used on their own or with another diagnostic test, are an effective screening tool for any medical condition including the early detection of breast cancer or other diseases and health conditions.
‘Mammography is the most effective breast cancer screening method and the only method proven to increase the chance of survival through earlier detection.’
She decided to look up what it could mean and discovered thermal imaging cameras are often used as a tool by oncologists.
She said: ‘At this point I searched on Google to see what this could mean and I saw a lot of articles about breast cancer and thermal imaging cameras.
‘I made an appointment with the doctor and as it turns out I do have breast cancer, thankfully really early stages.
‘I have now had two surgeries and have one to go to prevent it from spreading.’
Ms Gill wrote to Camera Obscura and World of Illusion to let them know of her experience.
She said: ‘I just wanted to say thank you: without that camera I would never have known.
‘I know it’s not the intention of the camera but for me it really was a life-changing visit.
‘I can not tell you enough about how my visit to the Camera Obscura changed my life.’
Andrew Johnson, general manager of Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, said: ‘We did not realise that our Thermal Camera had the potential to detect life-changing symptoms in this way.
‘We were really moved when Bal contacted us to share her story as breast cancer is very close to home for me and a number of our team.
‘It’s amazing that Bal noticed the difference in the image and crucially acted on it promptly.
‘We wish her all the best with her recovery and hope to meet her and her family in the future.’
Thermography, also called thermal imaging, is tool for spotting signs of cancer. Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) is the type used for finding breast cancer tumours.
As cancel cells multiply, they need oxygen from blood. The increase of blood flow to the site can increase the temperature. Inflammation can also increase heat.
DITI reveals temperature differences on the surface of the breasts, therefore can aid diagnostics by prompting further investigation.
Because mammograms are considered far more accurate in detecting cancer, thermography is not often used.
One in seven women in the UK will be affected by breast cancer in her lifetime, with around 55,000 diagnoses every year.