Breast Thermology: Decidedly Canadian in Origins

Assessing skin temperature has been part of diagnostic medicine since its origins.  The physicians of Hippocrates’ era applied this skill with their hands and, more objectively, by painting a thin slurry of mud on their patients’ skin to observe the relative rates of drying.  Hippocrates established the evaluation of body temperature as a cardinal sign of disease.1

Approximately twenty-five hundred years later, in 1956, Dr. Ray N. Lawson, an obstetrician-gynecologist and medical researcher at McGill University, published his investigation that associated increased skin temperature over known breast cancer in 26 women.2  In subsequent investigations, Dr. Lawson became the first to apply a new and previously secret technology to ‘see’ the increased heat patterns of breast cancer by infrared imaging.3,4

Dr. Lawson’s initial publication became the fountainhead of a global effort to investigate the diagnostic implications of the body’s infrared features.  Initially, increased infrared emissions overlying breast cancer were assumed to be a consequence of cancer’s elevated metabolic rate.  In the subsequent sixty years, medical science have validated and explained Dr. Lawson’s insightful observations as a manifestation of cancer’s ability to exaggerate unregulated flow of hot arterial blood flow from deep within the body.5,6  The development of improved and less expensive infrared imaging systems (thermographs) greatly facilitated a quantitative and objective evaluation of the variations in the levels, patterns and behavior of skin temperatures that have transfigured the empirical evaluations of thermography to a scientific level termed thermology.​

For many years, Dr. Lawson’s clinic provided diagnostic infrared imaging for women in Montreal.  In 1983, Medical Thermography International (MTI) partnered with the world’s premier thermology analytic laboratory, Therma-Scan, to bring this important service to women across Canada.   MTI ceased its operations in 2013 after the death of its owner.  Therma-Can was established to carry-on the mission of MTI, to work with naturopathic doctors and medical physicians across Canada and to ensure a reliable source of quality medical-grade thermology for Canadian women.  Currently, there are two teams that independently serve Eastern and Western Canada.

Q&A With Dr. Lawson

  1. Adams F. The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD, 1939.

  2. Lawson R. Implications of surface temperature in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Can Med Assoc J 1956;6:309-11

  3. Lawson RN. Thermography – a new tool in the investigation of breast lesions.  Can Serv Med 1957;13:517

  4. Lawson RN. A new infrared imaging device. Can Med J 1958;79:402

  5. Steinberg F, Konerding MA, Streffer C. The vascular architecture of human xenotransplanted tumors; histology, morphometrical and ultrastructural studies. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 1990;116:517-24

  6. Anbar M. Quantitative Dynamic Telethermometry in Medical Diagnosis and Management. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, PP 84-94, 1994