Breast cancer screening methods aim at early detection. Thermography scans and mammography scans are very different. Thermography looks at the function or activity of the body (physiological). Mammography looks at the anatomical parts of the body skeletal or structure. They each have been marketed as procedures of preventive medicine, supposedly helping to decrease mortality from breast cancer.
Mammography advantages and disadvantages:
- Radiation used to produce an image to detect internal anatomical structure of the breast. A typical mammogram delivers 1000 times more radiation than a chest x-ray.
- Compression of breast is often painful and harmful. As early as 1928, Dr. D.T. Quigley warned physicians about the dangers of spreading cancer cells through the compression of the mammogram. It is only logical that if there are any small, undetected tumors already developing in the breast, that painful compression could easily spread malignant cells through the circulatory and lymphatic system.
- The majority of breast cancers are found in the upper outer quadrant of the breast – an area that often does not get scanned by mammography.
- Can detect cancerous lumps before they can be felt, earlier than physical exam.
- Cannot detect fast growing cancers in the pre-invasive stage, only slow growing cancers. It cannot detect inflammatory cancer.
- Reading mammograms can become difficult for women who are on hormone replacement, nursing, or have fibrocystic, large, dense, or enhanced breasts.
- Screening for early forms of breast cancer leads to over diagnosis. That is, the detection of pseudo-cancers or non-cancers -“cancers” that would not cause harm, during her lifetime, if not treated. DCIS, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, is not cancer. Due to high resolution in mammograms, it is picked up on breast screening tests. Currently DCIS is considered stage 0 cancer. These “cancers” tend to get treated aggressively such as repeated mammography scans, undue biopsies, and often both breast mastectomies; the suggestion being that the healthy breast may be affected some day as well. Out of fear, and without accurate information, women who have one healthy breast choose to have that one taken too.
What about breast thermography, a functional/physiological test? Shouldn’t women be told about this option? Thermography is a lesser known, but increasingly popular screening test that works by imaging thermal patterns on the skin. It uses infrared heat to see vascular activity (angiogenesis).
Thremography advantages and disadvantages:
- Detects physiological changes which may be associated with future cancer growth up to ten years earlier than what can be detected with a mammogram. 2. Better at detecting aggressive /fast growing cancers 3. Offers younger women an imaging tool that they can add to their breast health check-ups beginning with baseline imaging at age 20 4. It is a 15 minute non invasive test with no radiation, and no compression or pain. 5. It will detect physiology changes of a cancer while it’s still in the cellular phase—sometimes years before it is detectable with a mammogram. 6. Visualizes all areas of the chest 7. Used to monitor effectiveness of treatment. 8. Provides breast health education and information—very valuable for prevention. 9. Most insurance does not cover this.
Thermography can detect lymphatic congestion and hormonal imbalances as well as monitor dietary changes. In short, thermography is a tool to monitor breast health, not just a way to find disease. It’s not a replacement for mammography, but it is a useful adjunct. For women who don’t wish to have mammograms it’s a great option.
Ultrasound is not a screening procedure, but it is used to investigate an area already detected by mammography, thermography, or physical examination. It is good at distinguishing solid masses from fluid filled cysts. Ultrasound is:
- High frequency sound waves bounced off breast tissue to produce an image.
- It is done without radiation, is non-invasive and harmless
- It can detect some cancers missed or not detected by mammography.
Breast cancer risk is largely modifiable. Only 10-15 % of breast cancer cases have any genetic component, which means that 85-90% of risk has to do with other factors; diet, stress, and environmental factors being among the most important. The good news is we can become proactive with our own research and learn to make small changes every day that add up to a healthy lifestyle.
Joyce is a published author of “Breast health Is in Your Hands, Tips for Breast Vitality and Sensuality”, and founder of an international business, HealthyGirlsBreastOil, a unique effective essential oil blend for breast health. She offers consultations for natural breast health.