Did you know that one in every eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer sometime in her lifetime? Death rates have been going down since 1989, but an estimated 41,000 patients won’t survive breast cancer this year.
For women, all of the types of carcinomas, breast cancer is the most common diagnosis.
The likelihood of getting breast cancer nearly doubles if a woman’s mother, sister, or daughter is diagnosed with it. About 85 percent of female breast cancers strike women with no family history of it. In those cases, the cause is not inherited (inborn) but due to genetic mutations that occur as a byproduct of aging and the wear and tear of daily life.
Public consciousness about breast cancer is high, thanks in large part to the pink ribbon campaign started in 1982 by Susan G. Komen and the Race for the Cure.
Detecting breast cancer early is the key to successful treatment and recovery. Women are advised to perform a self-breast exam every month. Manually palpate your breasts and armpits deeply in a clockwise manner and note any underlying lump or abnormal mass. Discuss any changes with your doctor.
Other standard methods for early detection of breast cancer include:
Clinical breast exam – Similar to the self-breast exam but done by a qualified nurse or doctor, this is an important companion procedure to the self-exam.
Ultrasound – If a clinical exam confirms a breast lump, the doctor may call for an ultrasound imaging test. The anatomical contour of breast tissue and blood vessels can be traced by ultrasonic waves to detect lesions.
Mammogram – An x-ray taken by a special machine that squeezes the breast between two plates to take front and side views.
Biopsy – The most invasive breast exam procedure that produces the most definitive results, this confirmation often follows a doctor’s suspicion that a lump may not be benign (harmless). A fine needle aspiration, where a thin needle is inserted into an area of abnormal-appearing tissue or body fluid, is the usual biopsy method used to prove (or disprove) the presence of cancer.
One significant drawback of all of the above screening methods is that they show the presence of cancer only after it has developed. There is no way to anticipate that cancer will arise and take steps to prevent that from happening.
There is. However, another procedure trending now that not only detects breast cancer but gives warning early enough for women to do something preventative to avoid further progression of the disease. Thermography is not new – it has been around for several decades – but it is often overlooked for breast cancer screening, despite its obvious advantages.
Thermography – or digital infrared thermal imaging – measures the temperature of the skin on the surface of the breast with a special camera. This procedure is completely non-invasive and involves no radiation.
Thermography works because blood flow and metabolism are higher in a cancer tumor due to the rapid cell growth and multiplication. This raises skin temperature. Science has shown that metabolic activity and vascular circulation in both pre-cancerous tissue and the area surrounding developing breast cancer is almost always higher than in normal breast tissue.
Philip Getson, D.O., has been a medical thermographer since 1982. He explained how thermography can provide warning signs to begin preventative treatment:
“It is widely acknowledged that cancers, even in their earliest stages, need nutrients to maintain or accelerate their growth. In order to facilitate this process, blood vessels are caused to remain open, inactive blood vessels are activated, and new ones are formed through a process known as neoangiogenesis. This vascular process causes an increase in surface temperature in the affected regions, which can be viewed with infrared imaging cameras. Additionally, the newly formed or activated blood vessels have a distinct appearance, which thermography can detect.”
One huge advantage of thermography over mammographies is that tiny changes in normal blood vessel activity will show up on a temperature-sensing image and find thermal indications that a breast is in a pre-cancerous state – before it becomes noticeable by physical examination or other conventional detection methods.
Because women are having breast cancer screening tests regularly, more instances of DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) are being reported. Although doctors consider DCIS to be “Stage 0 cancer,” they often recommend a mastectomy (breast removal) to stop cancer from developing and spreading.
Dr. Christiane Northrup is not the only medical doctor who believes that the rise in screening tests has “led to a great deal of over diagnosis and overtreatment” of breast disease.
Dr. Laura Esserman found that, contrary to what you might think, “the removal of 50,000 to 60,000 DCIS lesions annually has not been accompanied by a reduction in the incidence of invasive breast cancers.”
Women are having bilateral mastectomies (where both breasts are removed surgically) when they may not need them, if only for their own peace of mind.
Thermography can identify breast problems years before mammography, and it is reliable and accurate. Very early detection gives time for the patient to alter diet, lifestyle, and mental attitude to change cells before they become cancerous.
Women are avoiding mammography for five good reasons:
- Leads to overdiagnosis and overtreatment
- Does not reduce the mortality rate
- Exposes women to high levels of radiation
- Can cause increased anxiety and worry over abnormal results
- Mammograms are not prevention
The same women are asking their doctor for thermography because it is:
- Effective for young, dense breasts and implants
- Able to detect cell changes in the armpit area
- A great additional test
- Involves no radiation
- Very safe – even for pregnant and nursing women
Get thermography only from qualified, board-certified physicians who have received specialized training to interpret these temperature-based images. Be sure this thermographer explains the procedure, answers all your questions, and reviews the results thoroughly with you.
Early breast cancer and detection using thermography may prove to be a real game-changer for pink ribbon supporters everywhere. Ask your doctor about it the next time the subject of mammograms comes up.