This tourist attraction was literally life-changing.
A British woman was astounded to learn she had breast cancer after passing through a popular Scottish tourist site’s thermal imager, which detected the cancer. News of the serendipitous discovery was posted to the attraction’s website.
Bal Gill, 41, of Berkshire, UK, and her family had visited Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura and World of Illusions museum in May. After going through the thermal imaging room — a nifty exhibit that scans people’s heat signatures — Gill noticed a peculiar “hot spot” on her left breast.
“We thought it was odd, and having looked at everyone else they didn’t have the same,” said the alarmed mother of two.
A few days later, Gill happened across a photo of the heat patch, which inspired her to do a Google search that turned up articles on infrared imagers detecting cancer. Gill’s suspicions were confirmed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer by an oncologist.
Fortunately, thanks to her impromptu mammogram catching the tumor early, doctors should be able to treat her cancer without chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Gill has undergone two surgeries, including a mastectomy, with a final operation slated for November.
“I just wanted to say thank you: without that camera, I would never have known,” wrote Gill on the Camera Obscura website. “I cannot 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, was moved when Gill contacted him to share her story as breast cancer was an important issue to him and his team. He also found it incredible that their “thermal camera had the potential to detect life-changing symptoms in this way.”
However, the medical community is skeptical. The camera’s catch was an anomaly, according to Caroline Rubin, vice president for clinical radiology at the Royal College of Radiologists.
While thermography cameras have the ability to map out aberrant heat and blood signatures associated with tumors, there is no evidence that they are “sensitive or specific enough to be a trusted method to detect breast cancer,” says Rubin.
So despite Gill’s good fortune, the FDA advises against using infrared heat detectors as a substitute for regular breast cancer screening with a digital mammography device.
Here’s hoping she has at the very least inspired hope during October, the Breast Cancer Awareness month. About 1 in 8 US women are expected to develop the invasive form of the disease in their lifetime, with 268,000 new cases projected by the end of 2019, per breastcancer.org.
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