“With thermography as your regular screening tool, it’s likely that you would have the opportunity to make adjustments to your diet, beliefs, and lifestyle to transform your cells before they became cancerous. Talk about true prevention”. — Christiane Northrup, M.D.
It is a sign of the times that women have been trained to be so afraid of breast cancer that they’ll often willingly sacrifice their breasts just to relieve their anxiety—sometimes called “surveillance fatigue.” Plus, most doctors are trained to do something when they have a diagnosis. And given the number of them who have been sued for “failure to diagnose,” it’s not surprising that so many women agree to sacrifice their breasts rather than take what they are taught is a huge risk, even when it isn’t.
For these reasons, it’s not surprising that the number of women having prophylactic mastectomies “just in case” has soared. The rates of contralateral prophylactic mastectomy more than tripled from 2002 to 2012 even though studies have shown that removing healthy breasts doesn’t improve survival. And, with celebrities such as Sharon Osbourne and Angelina Jolie having double mastectomies as a prevention technique, I expect this rate will continue to rise.
Monitoring Your Breast Health
Before succumbing to “October Pink Madness”, please know that there are tried and true ways to maintain breast health, and also monitor it. One of those is paying attention to your dreams. That’s right— Dr. Larry Burke has published studies showing that a dream about having breast cancer is often very accurate at diagnosing the problem. But there are other more conventional approaches, including thermography.
Why Thermography Is Your Best Breast Test Option
Every year when Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) comes around it is surprising that thermography hasn’t become more popular. It would be advantageous to have the mindset where you would rather focus on breast health and ways to prevent breast cancer at the cellular level than put the emphasis on testing and retesting until you finally do find something to poke, prod, cut out, or radiate. It is understood that mammography has been the gold standard for years. Doctors are the most familiar with this test, and many believe that a mammogram is the best test for detecting breast cancer early. But it’s not. Studies show that a thermogram identifies precancerous or cancerous cells earlier, produces unambiguous results which cuts down on additional testing, and doesn’t hurt the body.
As you may know, thermography is a form of thermal (infrared) imaging. Philip Getson, D.O. has been a medical thermographer since 1982. Dr. Getson explains how thermography works this way:
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.
Remember, heat is an indication that inflammation exists, and typically inflammation is present in precancerous and cancerous cells, too. It’s also present in torn muscles and ligaments as well as arthritic joints, which thermography can also detect!
Early Breast Cancer Detection and Accuracy
Today, women are encouraged to get a mammogram, so they can find their breast cancer as early as possible. The most promising aspect of thermography is its ability to spot anomalies years before mammography. Using ten-year study data, researcher Dr. Getson adds:
Since thermal imaging detects changes at the cellular level, studies suggest that this test can detect activity eight to ten years before any other test. This makes it unique in that it affords us the opportunity to view changes before the actual formation of the tumor. Studies have shown that by the time a tumor has grown to sufficient size to be detectable by physical examination or mammography, it has in fact been growing for about seven years achieving more than twenty-five doublings of the malignant cell colony. At 90 days there are two cells, at one year there are 16 cells, and at five years there are 1,048,576 cells—an amount that is still undetectable by a mammogram. (At 8 years, there are almost 4 billion cells.)
Thermography’s accuracy and reliability is remarkable, too. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, a great deal of research was conducted on thermography. In 1981, Michel Gautherie, Ph.D., and his colleagues reported on a ten-year study, which found that an abnormal thermogram was ten times more significant as a future risk indicator for breast cancer than having a history of breast cancer in your family.
With thermography as your regular screening tool, it’s likely that you would have the opportunity to make adjustments to your diet, beliefs, and lifestyle to transform your cells before they became cancerous. Talk about true prevention.
Clearer Results, Fewer Additional Tests
It seems like the world was set on its ear in November 2009 when the United States Preventative Services Task Force said it recommended that women begin regular mammograms at 50 instead of 40, and that mammograms are needed only every two years instead of annually between the ages of 50 and 74. Some women felt this was a way for the insurance companies to save money but the Task Force concluded that the risk of additional and unnecessary testing far outweighed the benefits of annual mammograms.
Even before the U.S. Preventative Task Force’s recommendation, Danish researchers Ole Olsen and Peter Gotzsche concluded, after analyzing data from seven studies, that mammograms often led to needless treatments and were linked to a 20 percent increase in mastectomies, many of which were unnecessary. Dr. Getson expounded, “According to the 1998 Merck Manual, for every case of breast cancer diagnosed each year, five to ten women will undergo a painful breast biopsy. This means that if a woman has an annual mammogram for ten years, she has a 50 percent chance of having a breast biopsy.”
If you’ve ever had an unnecessary biopsy or been scared by a false positive result on a mammogram, please consider getting a thermogram. You can always use it in conjunction with the mammogram to figure out your treatment options.
6 Reasons to Consider Breast Thermography
In addition to early detection and accurate test results, here are some other reasons to like thermography:
- Good for young, dense breasts and implants. Younger breasts tend to be denser. Thermography doesn’t identify fibrocystic tissue, breast implants, or scars as needing further investigation.
- Detect cell changes in arm pit area. The arm pit area is an area that mammography isn’t always good at screening.
- Great additional test. Thermography can be used as an additional test to help women and their care teams make more informed treatment decisions.
- It Doesn’t Hurt. The pressure of a mammogram machine is equivalent to putting a 50-pound weight on your breast, which can be quite painful for most women.
- No radiation. Another reason the United States Preventative Services Task Force reversed its aggressive mammogram guidelines was because of the exposure to radiation. It’s well known that excessive doses of radiation can increase your risk of cancer. It’s ironic that the test women are using for prevention may be causing the very problem they’re trying to avoid in the first place! And this doesn’t even touch on the harm done to the body from unnecessary biopsies, lumpectomies, mastectomies, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and so forth.
- Thermography is very safe. Thermography is even safe for pregnant and nursing women! It’s merely an image of the heat of your body.
Thermography is a better technology for all of the reasons already described. Plus, it gives results that are unique to you, time after time. But Dr. Getson says there are some things you need to know. For one, not all thermographic equipment is the same. When you are choosing a thermography center, be sure to ask what the “drift factor” is for their machines. Anything over 0.2 degrees centigrade leads to poor reproducibility. Also, the room in which the study is performed should be free of outside light and the temperature should always be at 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, with a proper cooling system in place.
Be sure that your thermography center of choice is backed by qualified, board-certified physicians who are specifically trained in the interpretation of these images. And, be sure that the physician is available to explain and discuss all findings. Finally, make sure the images are “stat”-ed or marked up for future comparison.
The Best Test for You
As with anything, let your inner guidance help you in all decisions about your health. If you feel it’s best to get a bi-annual or annual mammogram, then by all means continue with them. Just be aware of the drawbacks and risks associated with the test.
And, don’t be intimidated or feel guilty if you prefer to forgo mammography completely. A thermogram can tell you how healthy your breasts are rather than just screening them for cancer. When done properly, it also has the potential to truly detect breast cell anomalies long before mammography can detect cancer. This allows you to implement lifestyle changes that can improve the health of your breasts proactively.
In honor of Breast Health Awareness month, I encourage you to check out thermography for yourself and your loved ones!
Learn More — Additional Resources
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
This article was condensed from a blog article by Christiane Northrup, M.D. for Heart to Heart Messages.