‘Life-changing’ visit to tourist attraction leads to woman’s early breast cancer diagnosis

When Bal Gill visited Camera Obscura & World of Illusions in May, she had no idea just how life-changing the experience would be — one of the attractions helped her discover that she had breast cancer and led to an early diagnosis.

Gill, 41, was visiting Camera Obscura & World of Illusions with her family during the school holidays. They interacted with a popular attraction called the Thermal Camera, which lets visitors see a visual of the heat distribution in their body, and something in the picture caught Gill’s eye.

“As all families do, we entered and started to wave our arms and look at the images created,” Gill wrote in a letter to Camera Obscura & World of Illusions. “While doing this I noticed a heat patch (red in colour) coming from my left breast.”

“We thought it was odd and having looked at everyone else they didn’t have the same. I took a picture and we carried on and enjoyed the rest of the museum,” she added.

After returning home, Gill came upon the thermal image again while scrolling through the photos she took on the trip, and her curiosity piqued once more.

“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,” she wrote in the letter. “I made an appointment with the doctor and as it turns out I do have breast cancer, thankfully really early stages.”

Oncologists use thermal imaging to detect breast cancer by measuring the temperature of the skin on the breast’s surface. Because cancer cells grow and multiply rapidly, blood flow and metabolism are noticeably high in a cancerous tumor, and this causes the skin’s temperature to go up.

Gill has undergone two surgeries to keep the cancer from spreading, and she told BBC that she won’t be needing chemotherapy or radiotherapy afterward thanks to catching it early.

“I just wanted to say thank you: without that camera, I would never have known,” Gill wrote. “I know it’s not the intention of the camera but for me, it really was a life-changing visit. I cannot tell you enough about how my visit to the Camera Obscura changed my life.”

Andrew Johnson, General Manager of Camera Obscura & World of Illusions issued a statement in response to Gill’s letter:

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.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.