The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam is looking at ways to extend the application of its Digital Infrared Thermography — currently used for screening of cancers — to screening vascular disorders and other disorders including diabetes. The centre is also planning to take the technology to rural areas.

The technology, which has numerous applications in the industry, is being utilised in the medical arena for early detection of cancer tumours in a non-invasive manner, said B. Venkatraman, associate director, IGCAR.

He was here recently to participate in a breast cancer awareness programme at Madras Medical College (MMC).

IGCAR began research on the medical application of the technology nearly eight years ago. Two years ago, the centre collaborated with MMC and initiated studies.

Now, there are plans to extend its applications for vascular disorders to study the blood flow pattern and deep vein thrombosis, he said, adding, “We are exploring the possibility of taking its applications for early detection of diabetes. We want to take it to the rural masses.”

Explaining the idea behind the thermograghy, he said the human body normally generated heat. “Cancer cells present in any part of the body exhibit higher temperature when compared to other cells because of higher metabolic activity and vascularity. The body’s temperature pattern is symmetrical and any change in the symmetry is an indication of an abnormality or problem,” he said.

This technology senses infrared radiations emitted by the body and converts it into a visible thermal map, he said, adding, “The equipment consists of an infrared camera. It helps in detecting tumours located on the surface or near the surface of the body.”

The advantages are numerous. “First of all, it is a non-invasive procedure and unlike in X-ray, there is no ionizing radiation. It is cost-effective and fast. When combined with other imaging modality, it yields higher sensitivity and specificity,” he explained.

Being a handheld device, it can be taken to rural areas with ease. Considered a first screening modality, nearly 700 persons have been screened using the digital infrared thermal imaging at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, said K. Malathi, professor, Barnard Institute of Radiology.

“This has made early detection possible way before the patient experiences the malignancy of the cancer. It is a good marker for different cancers,” she said.

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