Infrared (IR) breast thermography has been associated with the early detection of breast cancer (BC). However, findings in previous studies have been inconclusive. The upright position of subjects during imaging introduces errors in interpretation, because it blocks the optical access in the inframammary fold region and alters the temperature due to contact between breast and chest wall. These errors can be avoided by imaging breasts in prone position. Although the numerical simulations provide insight into thermal characteristics of the female breast with a tumor, most simulations in the past have used cubical and hemispherical breast models. We hypothesize that a breast model with the actual breast shape will provide true thermal characteristics that are useful in tumor detection. A digital breast model in prone position is developed to generate the surface temperature profiles for breasts with tumors. The digital breast model is generated from sequential magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images and simulations are performed using finite volume method employing Pennes bioheat equation. We investigated the effect of varying the tumor metabolic activity on the surface temperature profile. We compared the surface temperature profile for various tumor metabolic activities with a case without tumor. The resulting surface temperature rise near the location of the tumor was between 0.665 and 1.023 °C, detectable using modern IR cameras. This is the first time that numerical simulations are conducted in a model with the actual breast shape in prone position to study the surface temperature changes induced by BC.

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