The Benefits of Thermography for Detecting Breast Cancer
Thermography, also known as thermal imaging, is an alternative method of screening for breast cancer that is completely safe, non-invasive, does not subject the breast to harmful radiation and doesn’t hurt at all!
Yet it is alarming how many people have never heard of it.
Mammography Is Not Saving Lives
If you read the research about breast cancer survival rates, everyone agrees that if breast cancer is detected in its earliest stages, 95 percent cure rates are possible.
One of the problems associated with mammography, ultrasound, MRI, and other commonly used imaging tools is that they rely primarily on finding a physical tumor. They cannot detect pre-cancerous changes in the breast.
Another problem with mammography is the repeated doses of radiation to the breast, which is a highly radio-sensitive organ. Each dose of radiation increases one’s risk for breast cancer. I read in two different places that a mammogram can expose you to approximately one thousand times the amount of radiation one might receive in a chest x-ray!
Further, if a tumor is present, the mechanical pressing upon it by traditional mammography methods can, some experts feel, rupture a cancerous tumor and seed the cancer cells throughout the breast where they can grow and spread.
A research paper published in September 2015 titled “Mammography Screening is Harmful and Should Be Abandoned”  makes it clear that despite decades of mammography screening, breast cancer mortality has not been reduced, rather it has led to millions of women being over-treated for supposedly early stage or stage zero breast cancer. In most cases, these women were offered toxic treatments they didn’t need, the result of which (in the case of chemotherapy and radiation) actually creates cancer stem cells, can alter benign cells to malignant cells, or transform cancer cells into much deadlier types.
Thermography Is Different
Thermography works quite differently, it investigates vascular changes in the breast, detects patterns of blood flow, inflammation and symmetrical changes.
You see, temperature changes in the breast can be an early indicator of the possible development of a cancerous tumor. Metabolic activity and vascular circulation in both pre-cancerous tissue and the area surrounding a developing breast tumor is almost always higher than in normal breast tissue. In an ever-increasing need for nutrients, tumors increase circulation in the area of the tumor by holding open existing blood vessels, opening dormant vessels, and creating new ones (called neoangiogenesis). This process causes an increase in the surface temperature of the breast and thermography can detect this.
Thermography uses ultra-sensitive medical infrared cameras and computer programs to detect, analyze, and produce high-resolution images of these temperature variations. By detecting tiny variations in blood vessel activity, thermal imaging may pick up a pre-cancerous state of the breast or the presence of an early tumor that is not yet large enough to be detected by physical examination, mammography, or other types of imaging.
Women who are on hormone replacement therapy, are nursing or who have fibrocystic, large, dense, or enhanced breasts can have problems with mammograms as these conditions make it quite difficult to see what is going on in the breast. With thermal imaging, however, these types of breast differences do not pose a problem since the technology utilized is quite different.
For those doctors who say that thermography isn’t proven and nothing more than quackery, research released in 2015  indicated that “thermography may be useful in the initial screening and supplementation of diagnostic procedures due to its safety (its non-radiation properties), low cost and the good recognition of breast tissue disease.”
An older 2008 study  found that breast thermography had a 97 percent sensitivity rate in discovering malignancies, and that a digital infrared camera identified 58 out of 60 malignancies in breast tissue. The researchers involved in the study stated that DITI (Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging) was a valuable addition to mammography and ultrasound, especially in women with dense breast tissue.
The 7 Best Reasons for Using Thermography
It doesn’t hurt!
It is non-invasive, no squishing or damaging of breast tissue;
The breast is not subjected to ionizing radiation every single year;
Thermal imaging doesn’t cause cancer whereas mammography can;
It takes 15 minutes;
It is safe for pregnant women;
Thermal imaging has the ability to detect a tumor developing when it is only the size of a pin head, some 3-5 years before a mammogram can see it.
What To Expect When You Get Thermography
This process may vary a little from place to place, but generally speaking, this is the routine to expect.
You are invited to sit in a temperature-controlled room to allow your body to cool down. You will probably be asked to complete some health paperwork, including a health survey.
For a breast thermogram, you will disrobe to the waist and be positioned in front of a thermal imaging camera. The technician will take digital pictures. You may be asked to plunge your hand into cold water on the side being photographed. The process takes between 5-15 minutes.
Depending on the size of the facility and the staff, your pictures may either be read on the premises or sent out to a certified physician for analysis.
You will receive a report of findings shortly thereafter and this can be used to help you and your medical practitioner to detemine any next steps.
Unfortunately, conventional medicine as a whole still has not accepted thermal imaging and few insurance companies will cover the cost of it, at least in the USA. The fee for first-time patients is around $200-300 in both the USA and Australia. Be that as it may, I believe it’s a much better method of discovering problems within the breast early on. It is well worth the price.
Please do not subject yourself to mammography screening as a “preventive measure”. By doing so, you are actually putting yourself right square into harm’s way. To find a certified thermography technician in your area, go to the American College of Clinical Thermology Inc (ACCT) website at www.thermologyonline.org. If you are located outside of the USA, just Google “breast thermography” and the name of your city/town/province to see if someone in your area performs this type of breast imaging.
Mammography screening is harmful and should be abandoned – http://jrs.sagepub.com/content/108/9/341.long
Assessing the Potential of Thermal Imaging in Recognition of Breast Cancer – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26745126
Effectiveness of a Noninvasive Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging System in the Detection of Breast Cancer – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18809055
Does radiation-induced c-MYC amplification initiate breast oncogenesis? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4845163/
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My main goal as a breast cancer coach is to share with you the best ways of keeping yourself free of breast cancer. And I’m sorry, but having “routine”, yearly mammograms is definitely NOT part of that goal. So today I’m going to provide you with some mammogram alternatives, three things you can do instead of having mammograms.
Why Do I Hate Mammograms?
I hate mammograms, not only because they are incredibly uncomfortable, but because they are associated with an increased risk of cancer due to the high doses of radiation received during each screening. They are NOT saving lives, in fact, I would argue that millions of women are putting themselves at a higher risk each year by having these screenings done on healthy, non-cancerous tissue.
Another problem is the false positives which often result from routine mammogram screenings. False positives can lead to expensive repeat screenings (and even more radiation), and can often result in unnecessary invasive procedures such as biopsies, surgery, radiation and even chemotherapy. Not to mention the stress encountered when you are going through these things.
In May 2014, the New England Journal of Medicine released their article Abolishing Mammography Screening Programs? A View From the Swiss Medical Board concluding that mammography screening is “hard to justify”. International studies have been carried out on the efficacy of mammograms, and the results of those studies is making it clear that mammogram screening is not doing what it was designed to do – save lives. Instead, people are being over-diagnosed and over-treated for things like DCIS which – in most cases – would never lead to invasive, life-threatening cancer.
At what point are we going to stop recommending mammography screening, pay attention to the science that clearly indicates it isn’t working, and do something else?
Dr Christine Horner’s Perspective
I recently had the good fortune to listen in on an interview with Dr Christine Horner, a doctor I have long admired for all she has done to promote natural healing and breast cancer prevention. Dr Horner recommends that we do a combination of 3 tests that are much less invasive, have no associated risks or side effects, and can actually be preventative. None of those things can be said about mammograms. These 3 things are, especially when used in combination, extremely accurate:
At what point are we going to stop this madness, take stock of the science and acknowledge that widespread screening mammography for non-high risk women is not the answer to the breast cancer epidemic? – See more at: http://bcaction.org/2014/06/23/from-the-ed-breast-cancer-mammograms-overrated-and-over-diagnosing-women/#sthash.nh8RELUv.dpuf
1. Ultrasound. Ultrasound screening is non-invasive, safe and painless. Sound waves – also called sonography – are used to produce pictures of the inside of the breast. A small transducer (probe) and ultrasound gel is placed on the surface of the skin, then high-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the probe through the gel into the breast. The transducer collects the sounds that bounce back and a computer then uses those sound waves to create an image. Because ultrasound images are captured in real time, they can show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through vessels.
2. Monthly Physical Exam. If you haven’t become accustomed to doing a monthly self-exam, this is something you probably should consider. If you aren’t quite sure how to do one, see my article How To Do A Monthly Breast Self Exam. Since most women find their own breast lumps, learning how to do the self exam once per month is definitely worth the time and effort. Put it on your calendar or in your smart phone for a certain day each month (please do it now!).
3. Thermography. I have written a few articles about thermography – see them all in my category Thermography. Thermal imaging (approved by the FDA) uses a special infrared sensitive camera to digitally record images of the surface temperature of the body. Any abnormal variations in surface body temperature are indicators that a tumor may be growing in that region. Research has shown that the metabolic activity and vascular changes of developing tumors is higher and that results in an increase in surface body temperature compared to normal, healthy breast tissue. Thermography is far more accurate in detecting breast cancer and it can do so YEARS earlier than can mammography. For instance, it can detect tumor cells that are about the size of a single grain of rice, and mammography is still not that good. When tumors that small are detected, patients have nearly a much better chance of long-term survival.
These three methods are very effective, not terribly expensive, and quite safe.
If you would like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, just sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and stockimages
Breast Cancer Action Webinar
I sat in on a webinar today given by Breast Cancer Action, a group I greatly admire and support for the work they are doing in breast cancer advocacy. You can find out more about BCA by clicking on the link (above) which will take you to their website, or in the article I wrote last August , “Support Breast Cancer Action – A Good Cause“.
Today’s webinar was titled “The Oversimplification of Early Detection: Screening Mammography and Breast Cancer Overdiagnosis”. They are running it again on Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 9:00 am PST, 12:00 PM EST. You can sign up for the webinar by using this link.
Presenting the webinar were Sahru Keiser, BCA’s Education and Mobilization Coordinator; Dr Tracy Weitz, BCA Board Chair and Director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at UCSF; and Dr H. Gilbert Welch, Professor of Medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Research, and co-author of the study “Effect of Three Decades of Screening Mammography on Breast Cancer Incidence.”
They began the webinar with a quotation from Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society, who admitted that American medicine has overpromised when it comes to cancer screenings.
Dr Weitz made the point that breast cancer is intensely personal, but also highly political, highly commercialized, and highly confusing. I was thinking that I couldn’t agree more.
Challenging Old Ways of Looking At Breast Cancer
Dr Weitz said we need to be challenging the old way of thinking about breast cancer, which view has been that breast cancer is a progressive disease that gets more deadly over time. Based on that old belief, American medicine adopted the approach that early detection is the best way to save lives.
But that approach, and mammography in particular, has not given us the results we have hoped for. Now we know that:
1. Not all breast cancers are alike;
2. Not all breast cancer tumors can be found;
3. Not all breast cancer can be cured;
4. The type of tumor matters more than the size;
5. Not all breast cancers need to be treated;
6. Screening and treatment for breast cancer comes with its own risks and benefits.
Several times during the webinar it was pointed out that they were primarily discussing breast cancer screening, which refers to the testing of otherwise healthy women with NO breast symptoms. Diagnostic mammograms still definitely have a role to play when a lump has been perceived and one needs to find out what it is.
Screening Mammography Benefits and Risks
The greatest benefits of screening mammography are seen in populations with a higher prevalence of disease and with the type of disease that responds to treatments. The problem, however, is how many false positive tests there are – women who needlessly undergo a battery of tests only to find there is no cancer present. They also mentioned the associated risks from radiation, because that in itself increases a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer.
An interesting fact: women in the United States were exposed to SEVEN TIMES more radiation in 2006 than they were in the 1980’s.
Turtles, Bears and Birds
Dr Weitz had an interesting way of classifying breast cancer, she said there were 3 basic types:
Turtles – Those who had non-aggressive, slow moving tumors that would never be life-threatening (which is much of DCIS)
Bears – Those whose tumors lie in hibernation, wake up suddenly and can be deadly
Birds – Those whose tumors fly quickly, were very aggressive, and no matter how small when found, cannot be effectively treated
Apparently screening mammography is better at finding turtles. If we hadn’t gone looking, we wouldn’t have found them and no harm would be done. I feel terribly sad for the women in this category who have chosen to have mastectomies out of utter terror of a report that says “cancer”, even though their particular tumor would have stayed localized and not amounted to anything.
1.3 Million Overdiagnosed
Dr Welch noted that in future, screening must advance the time of diagnosis of the cancers that are destined to cause death, that finding these sorts of tumors earlier was absolutely paramount. He stated that screening mammography has not changed late stage cancer detection but it is finding many more early stage cancers. He estimated that 1.3 million women in the US have been overdiagnosed and overtreated.
Dr Welch stated that the breast cancer death rate is falling, but that was because it was being treated more effectively, not because of early screening. He stated that the rates of metastatic breast cancer had not changed, that it appears not to have been affected by early screening at all.
African American Woman At Higher Risk
Sahru Keiser made the point that African American women have a higher risk of dying from breast cancer, that they are 40% more likely to die than white women because of differences in tumor characteristics, because of inability to obtain a good standard of medical care, and that for this group of women, the risk was greater for those who were premenopausal, and that increases in mammography screening had not led to a reduction in mortality.
I think these are shameful statistics.
5 Good Reasons to Rethink Mammograms
All in all, BCA felt that mammograms were not the best screening tool for these reasons:
1. Mammograms were less effective in premenopausal women
2. Mammograms were less effective for those with dense breast tissue
3. Mammography created another set of problems because of the radiation associated with them
4. Mammography is finding cancers that really should not be found and are nothing to worry about
5. Mammography isn’t particularly good at finding cancers that really did need to be found.
Here Are 6 Things We CAN Do
1. BCA advocated being proactive about prevention. I agree with that and many of the articles on this blog are written with prevention in mind.
2. Know your body – the shape, the size, the feel of your breasts – so that you will know if something unusual is taking place within the breast.
3. It was recommended to start having screening mammograms at menopause, and then have them only every other year until the age of 75, at which point your health professionals could made recommendations suitable for your particular health situation.
4. It was also recommended that clinical breast exams be performed every year by an experienced health professional – that’s the exam where your doctor has you lie on your back and feels for any notable lumps in the breast. I would add to that to learn how to do this yourself – there are plenty of websites that teach how to do a breast exam and your doctor will teach you as well. Do it monthly, after your menstrual cycle if you are premenopausal. I recommend placing a sticky note reminder on your calendar – or if you have an iPad or smart phone, put that reminder in your calendar to do this monthly.
5. Read through my site to find out what I recommend for breast health and stress reduction, because I truly believe that stress plays a big role in the development of many cancers. Sign up for my newsletters, they are free and contain my best recommendations about prevention and healing from breast cancer.
6. My personal favorite breast screening method is thermography. If you are lucky enough to have a Thermal Imaging center in your city, I strongly recommend them, I have utilized thermal imaging for myself and found it to be very pleasant, completely safe, and no SQUISH. For more information, see my article titled Breast Screening Without the SQUISH.
BCA recommended two books for further information: “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick In The Pursuit of Health” by Dr H. Gilbert Welch, and “The Big Squeeze: A Social and Political History of the Controversial Mammogram” by Dr Handel Reynolds.
The bottom line is that if you want to have mammogram screenings, you should continue to do so, but if you don’t want them you should not be coerced into it, and you have every right to do as you wish, it’s your body.
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer (or avoiding it) in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach). It is my honor and my goal to help you through this.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and renjith krishnan
Today I’m making an attempt to catch up (ha ha! as if!) on the stack of articles and medical research that has been piling up in my office and came across something interesting that I thought you’d want to know about.
It appears that the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation recently requested the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to perform a comprehensive review of environmental causes and risk factors for breast cancer. Here’s a link to the full report.
I found it somewhat unbelievable that things such as phthalates, bisphenol A, industrial chemicals such as benzene, ethylene oxide, or pesticides like DDT could not be conclusively linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, but I will be avoiding them anyway, and I think you should too. The IOM did acknowledge that more research into these areas was required. Amen to that.
The Two Environmental Factors Most Strongly Associated With Increased Breast Cancer Risk
The IOM found sufficient evidence to conclude that the two environmental factors most strongly associated with breast cancer were:
Exposure to ionizing radiation; and
Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (which will be covered in a follow-up article).
The IOM’s conclusion that there was a direct connection between radiation exposure and cancer is consistent with a great many other bodies of research which indicate that exposure to radiation in the same range as used for computed tomography (CT-scans) will increase the risk of cancer.
75 Million CT Scans Performed Annually In The U.S.
The use of CT scans has increased nearly 5-fold over the last 2 decades – did you know that 75 million CT scans are performed every year in the United States alone? SEVENTY-FIVE MILLION! According to the IOM report, “Thought leaders in radiology are often quoted as estimating that 30% or more of advanced imaging tests may be unnecessary.” You think?
The reasons for overuse are many:
the ease of conducting the exam;
the clear diagnostic images made possible;
strong financial incentives, reflected by the growing ownership of CT scanners by non-radiologists for use in their private medical offices;
strong patient demand, resulting partly from advertisements that do not mention adverse effects;
medical malpractice concerns which lead to defensive test ordering.
I have said this before and I’ll repeat it: BREAST CANCER RISK CAN (AND SHOULD) BE REDUCED BY AVOIDING UNNECESSARY MEDICAL IMAGING.
What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk from Medical Imaging
There are times when CT scans, x-rays and other forms of medical imaging are absolutely crucial, necessary and can be life-saving. It is important, however, for us to enter into a dialogue with our doctors when making decisions about medical imaging. You have every right to insist on the necessity and safety of all radiology scans that you undergo. Make sure you understand the risks and benefits and ask your doctor to explain those risks and benefits fully before you say yes.
Here 6 Important Questions You Can Ask Your Doctor:
Is this scan absolutely necessary?
Are there alternative tests that could be done?
How can I be assured that the test will be done the safest way possible?
Will information from this scan change the management of my disease?
Can/should I wait until after seeing a specialist before getting the scan?
Is it necessary to do it now?
Isn’t it interesting that the very thing most doctors recommend for determining whether breast cancer has begun in a woman (mammography) is also responsible for increasing her risk? There is another option! See my article about thermal imaging.
My next article will cover natural alternatives to synthetic hormone replacement therapy.
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach). It is my honor to help you through this.
The opening paragraph of the article reads: Evidence is mounting that medicine is harming healthy people through ever earlier detection and ever wider definition of disease.
I wanted to share this with you because it’s my observation that a lot of women are going through a lot of disfiguring surgeries and treatments for things that may or may not turn into a problem later on.
Overdosed, Over-Treated, Over-Diagnosed
The BMJ article tells us that there is mounting evidence that too many people are being overdosed, over-treated and over-diagnosed. The article goes on to identify the phenomenon of over-medicalization, saying healthy people are increasingly harmed by a barrage of unnecessary tests, procedures and drugs.
The article was timed to promote a new international conference called Preventing Overdiagnosis, that will aim to better assess the problem and begin working on solutions. Not a moment too soon, I say.
Research Claims Over Half of Breast Cancers Would Amount To Nothing If Left Untreated
I don’t know about you, but if I were one of those 54%, I’d be pissed. Especially considering the long-term effects of some of the treatments.
Action You Can Take
So what can we do about this? The International Conference is set to take place on 10-12 September 2013, exactly one year from now. Here’s a link to their website. You can submit papers, sign up for updates and find out about attending the conference (to be held at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Hanover, New Hampshire). You can also email any concerns to email@example.com.
If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
The only thing that concerns me in the video is the advice to start getting screening mammograms at the age of 40. There are many problems associated with mammograms and Dr Joseph Mercola (among others) has written an excellent article about that.
One of the main problems with mammograms is that they employ ionizing radiation at a relatively high dose, which in and of itself can contribute to the development of breast cancer. Mammograms expose your body to radiation that can be 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray. This is not acceptable!
A second problem with mammogram screening is that it also compresses your breasts tightly, and if there are any cancer cells present, could also lead to a dangerous spread of those cells.
The third problem with mammography is its unacceptably high rate of false positives. Read Dr Mercola’s article for more information on this – really important for you to know.
Thermal Imaging – A Much Better Solution
Dr Mercola and I agree that thermal imaging is a much better screening device. When I lived in Australia, I went yearly to a Thermal Imaging Center and really loved the experience. No squish! No pain! No radiation!
Thermography measures the infrared heat radiating from your body. It can detect signs of breast cancer without the use of dangerous radiation or mechanical pressure. Thermography can provide a picture of the early stages of angiogenesis — the formation of the blood vessels that feed a tumor.
See my page titled What is Thermography for more information. I highly recommend you do an Internet search – put in your city name and “thermal breast imaging” to find a center near you. Sometimes insurance pays for this – contact the thermal imaging center for more information.
The bottom line is this. The medical establishment is going to continue to push mammography on us – despite its obvious safety issues – unless we, the empowered patients, insist on doing something different.
If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.