Healthy Living

Could our breast exams be kinder, more comfortable but still effective?

I’ve long been a proponent of reducing the amount of radiation a woman’s breasts are exposed to, so I am actually pleased at some recent Task Force recommendations that low risk women wait until age 50 to begin getting mammograms, and then only every two years. They provided several reasons and statistics for their recommendations – but I suspect that they were not able to fully address the radiation issue because of the potential for lawsuits – from women, doctors and perhaps even the manufacturers of radiation based devices themselves.

First let me say that I am not medically credentialed – I’m just a woman who is forever searching for more healthful options to maintain my quality of life. It’s important we all be proactive in exploring what’s best for our own body. On this issue I simply want to be one more voice that suggests that there is a safer way to know what’s going on inside your breasts. Take a peek into the future – which is now!

Ever heard of a Thermogram? It’s a breast exam using an extremely sensitive heat-sensing infrared camera that can spot cancerous cells up to 8 years before they would even be detectable on a mammogram. There is no squishing, no radiation, no pain.

According to the Great Smokies Medical Center website: Breast thermography detects patterns of heat produced from the increased circulation produced by abnormal metabolic activity in cancer cells. Thus, thermography is a physiological test. Thermograms are interpreted by thermologists.

In her Road to Health Newsletter Bonnie O”Sullivan writes:

People often wonder if a Thermogram is better than a Mammogram or vice versa. Though both tests are used to detect breast cancer, each test has a different purpose. The Thermogram is used to detect subtle changes in the heat of the breast and information on any abnormal function in the breast while a mammogram is used to detect actual mass in the breast. By the time a mammogram detects a solid mass the cancer has been in the body for at least 5 years. The most effective way to find breast cancer is to use both exams.

  • A Breast exam alone diagnoses 61% of cancers
  • A Mammogram alone detects 84% of cancers
  • A Thermol Mammogram and conventional Mammogram detects 95% of cancers

95%! Rather than see this as an either/or situation, perhaps maturing women could get Thermograms every year or two, and mammograms only when they find increased “hot spots” during their thermal imaging. No need to throw out the baby with the bath water. Please ladies, check out the availability of Thermograms in your area. Your doctor may not be well versed about this option – so educate him or her. Used in conjunction with a mammogram, we can be well informed about our breast health without being over radiated! Caveat: this new field of opportunity is ripe for those who don’t have adequate training or certification – so do your homework!

I had my first Thermogram last year – no hot spots thank goodness. Many healthy breast advocates (and don’t we need more of those!) suggest following up your first Thermogram with a second one 3 months later to establish a baseline. Makes sense. Currently most Thermograms are not covered by insurance and, on average, can cost anywhere from $175-$300 each. Small price to pay for peace of mind – don’t you think? To learn more or to find a Thermography center near you visit breastthermography.com or breastthermography.org.

Click here to read another great article explaining how a Thermogram is administered and the science behind the process.

If you’ve had a Thermogram or are considering its use – share your story with us. Just like our quest for more natural hormone replacement options – we women are going to have support one another in making healthier choices as well as demand better and safer alternatives for breast health. Ask questions. Get educated. Make some noise!

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