This may be more information than you want to know about me. And more information period (sorry for the long post!) But, here goes. I have dense breasts. My mom also has fibrous or dense breasts. We don’t have a history of breast cancer, but when a doctor examines us, they seem to get nervous, in a “CYA” kind of way. Maybe they’re not sure if what they’re feeling are normal lumps or something to be concerned with. So the usual direction has been to see a breast specialist, get regular ultrasounds and monitor their density. Fun. Until this year. I turned the magical age of 37, and now a mammogram was added to the list. Not so fast. I’ve done a fair amount of research on mammograms, the amount of radiation in a mammogram (and cumulative effect of multiple mammograms), their effectiveness, frequency of false positives and more. So I went looking for an alternative. It’s not that I’d never consider a mammogram…but I just didn’t want to start them in my 30’s if I didn’t have to.
I remembered one of my clients passing along a flier for breast thermography. I dug it out of a file drawer and did some more research. Turns out Breast Thermography, while not as well-known and prescribed as mammograms are gaining recognition and acceptance from the medical community. Below is a recount of my experience with breast thermography and an article showing what doctors are saying about it.
My Breast Thermography Experience
I contacted Breast Research Awareness or BRAS which has a location here in Kansas City (and many others in the country). Linda Bamber, BRAS founder and thermographer, was very informative and helpful in our initial consultation. I explained my situation to her and she agreed that a thermogram would be a great place to start before the mammogram. Cost for the Breast Thermogram is $195.
So I show up on a hot summer day for my appointment. Linda walks me through some education of how the process works. She takes 6 images of me: front, back, side, etc. She jokes that it will take me longer to “cool down” to get ready for the pictures than to actually take them and she’s right. She instructs me to undress from the waist up and pick a colorful scarf (from the dressing area to fan myself for 10 minutes or so to make sure my body is cooled down from the outside. (if I was still really warm or sweating, it would show up on my thermogram). So I was glad she left me to my “fanning”… a very funny experience. But, I must say that it was probably better than the “breasts in a vice” experience of a mammogram.
Once I was thoroughly cooled down, Linda came back in to snap the thermal images and gave me some general feedback of what she saw on the screen. She talked me through my images and what would have been a concern. Overall, she thought my images looked good but we’d wait and get the official report from the doctors. The images were then sent off to a team of doctors to review and write a medical report for me. I received this report about 4 business days later, and it was in english, not doctor-speak.
One of the best things about my thermogram had nothing to do with the actual images. Linda spent a fair amount of time with me, walking me through different lymphatic flow exercises and things I could do to lessen the lumps and density of my breasts. She suggested dry brushing which you’ll see in another post and specific exercises that she found to really work. And, I must say, that I did too. I went home and started the exercises that night and woke up the next morning with nearly all of the lumps gone or significantly lessened. Wow! So… not wanting to jump the gun, I waited to write this (it’s been over a month), and still I have fewer lumps. Now – you might say, what does it matter? If the lumps aren’t cancerous, who cares? Well, the problem is that when your breasts are lumpy, doctors are more likely to push more aggressive tests and monitoring that may be more harmful to you. So, for me…no lumps is good.
A thermogram may or may not be the right option for you. But, it is so worth exploring and knowing the facts. It is your body. Your breasts. And as more and more information is discovered regarding the risks of tests that we just assumed were safe enough, it’s important to know that you have a choice. My Ob/Gyn hadn’t heard of thermography… if that’s the case with your doctor, don’t let that discourage you.
A little more about Thermography…
Thermography is 100% safe, has no radiation, does not touch the breast, and only takes a couple of minutes. A positive or suspicious thermal study will indicate medical necessity for a mammogram, ultrasound or other tests. The thermal findings will increase the sensitivity and specificity of most other tests by targeting an area of the breast showing dysfunction and providing decision making information in women that would not have otherwise been tested. Early detection is aimed at prevention and if early changes are detected then we have an opportunity to intervene and change the outcome.
Thermography Support from Doctors (from BRAS newsletter)
Many doctors have not heard about thermography—but many have! Several medical doctors who write newsletters have been giving thermography extra support for many years in their monthly columns, newsletters, or e-zines. Here are a few examples:
Dr. Mercola writes about thermography in his free bi-weekly emails often saying, “Ignoring the value of thermography as a muti-modal approach to early breast cancer detection and prevention is nothing short of negligent.”[ 1]
Check mercola.com for more information. He has a special 16 page report written with informative sources about breast thermography and why mammograms are receiving some negative press!
Thermography was featured in a recent sales brochure for Dr. Robert Rowen’s newsletter, Second Opinion. “Thermography is safer than mammography. How will you love thermography? Let me count the ways:
1. It doesn’t hurt.
2. It doesn’t spread cancer cells throughout your body by rupturing capillaries near undetectable cancers.
3. It cannot ruin your figure.
4. It gives off zero radiation.
5. It catches 90% of cancers (compared to 5-80% by mammography).
6. It detects tumors one centimeter in size (compared to two centimeters by mammography).
7. It signals very few false positives (only 10% compared to 27% by mammography).
8. It has predictive value. The hotter the tumor, the faster it’s growing. While mammography shows only structure (by x-rays), thermography shows live function (by heat).
9. Because it predicts, it give you advance warning of possible trouble.”[ 2
The editor of Women’s Health Letter, Nan Kathryn Fuchs says “I will continue to have regular thermograms and intend to keep writing about it (thermography) in my newsletter until there are centers throughout the country.”[ 3
Len Saputo, M.D. notes that “advances in infrared technology combined with data on 300,000 women document that breast thermography is highly sensitive and accurate. Today, this means that more than 95 percent of breast cancers can be identified, and that this is done with 90 percent accuracy.”[ 4
“A thermogram often picks up anomalies better that a mammogram. For example, thermography is very good at finding problems in young dense breasts as well as women with large breast. This makes thermography as compared to mammography, appropriate for a woman who is high risk and wants to begin breast cancer screening early. Something particularly good to know is that thermography doesn’t pick up questionable masses in women with fibrocystic disease nearly as often as mammography does,” adds Dr. Christine Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies and Women’s Wisdom.
She continues, “It’s also entirely possible to improve your thermography results over time by supplementing, exercising and following a lifestyle that doesn’t promote cellular inflammation. I encourage women everywhere to look into thermography and to take a sane approach that promotes breast health proactively.”
Distinguished author and leading expert in women’s health, Dr. Susan Lark, gives a big push for thermography. “Every woman should include breast thermography as part of their regular breast health care. I have recommended the use of this technology extensively over the years in my newsletter. Thermography has the unique ability to “map” the individual thermal fingerprint of a woman’s breasts. Any change in this map over the course of months and years can signal an early indication of possible tumors or other abnormalities. In fact, studies have shown that an abnormal infrared image is the single most important indicator of high risk for developing breast cancer.”[ 5
Dr. Lark’s information gave me the confidence to learn more about thermography and pair this amazing tool with breast health information that is easy and accessible in my business. BRAS-Breast Research Awareness and Support was created because of invaluable information from a medical doctor.
“So if breast self exams and mammograms are now being doubted as the best breast cancer screenings-should we do as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending and do practically nothing?” Dr. Brenda Smith, a Kansas City Ob-Gyn who specializes in women’s health, answers her question with a resounding no. “Thermograms can be used to safely screen women for breast pathology and identify women who do need mammograms or additional testing. It can be used on young women, women with dense breasts, women with implants and it can detect very early changes in breast health for a reasonable cost.”[ 6
Bra-vo to all those doctors who are educating others about thermography!
1] Mercola.com. Joseph Mercola, M.D. The Safe Breast Cancer Screening Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You About. Accessed June 2008.
[ 2] Second Opinion Newsletter. July 2010. Never Fear the Knife Again. Forget Mammograms! P. 8-11.
[ 3] Breastthermography.com. What Doctors Are Saying. http://www.breastthermography.com/what_doctors_say.htm (Accessed June 10,2010)
[ 4] Beyond Mammography, Len Saputo. MD. The Townsend letter for Doctors and Patients. June 2004
[ 5] Breastthermography.com. What Doctors Are Saying. http://www.breastthermography.com/what_doctors_say.htm (Accessed June 10,2010)
[ 6] Brenda Smith M.D., “The Debate Over Mammograms.” Home in the Northland April/May 2010: 66-67.