Monthly Archives: October 2011

Have You Heard about Elastography?

I just discovered that there is a test that can be done that is painless and can help you prevent biopsy!   For a BIRADS 4, the only test is a biopsy,  right? But  I just found something else.

The test is called Elastography. One article by Beth Orenstein entitled “Hard Decisions — Ultrasound Elastography Seeks to Help Characterize Breast Lesions and, More Recently, Throughout the Body” notes that if you have a BIRADS 4A for example, you can get this test. This additional test that is not invasive and not painful can provide the doctors with information to determine whether or not a biopsy is recommended.

So why don’t doctors go there right away? I don’t know.  I just came across this. But I suspect it is because it is new, it is not available everywhere, doctors don’t really trust it, or they feel that the biopsy is the gold standard. Of course, biopsy is the only way to know for sure if what is seen is cancer, but again, biopsy is not completely safe, so tests like this are really valuable. A hopeful clip on YouTube provides a story of a woman who avoided biopsy when her physician (who authored a recent study on the technology) used the method. While this technology may work in some cases, it is probably not a solution for microcalcifications.

Thermography Provides An Alternative for Monitoring Breast Changes

I listened to Dr. Christiane Northrup‘s Hay House broadcast on October 5th . The subject was breast health. Her guest was thermographer, Dr. Phllip Getson. The discussion centered on breast health in general, but there was a focus on thermography as not only an alternative to mammogram, but also as a way to monitor DCIS!

According to Drs. Northrup and Getson, thermography is a better way to monitor breast changes. It can pick up changes seven to ten years sooner than mammography. It is also very safe. Dr. Getson emphasizes the safety aspect as he explains that it can be performed every day, it can be done on pregnant and lactating women, and children will not be harmed by it. Dr. Northrup adds that many doctors do not recognize the value of thermography.  Dr. Northrup has referenced the DCIS controversy in several of her published books, including Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.

Dr. Northrup did talk about DCIS quite a bit, noting that a study of corpses of women in their forties suggested that 40% of the women studied had DCIS.  Yet, these were undiagnosed cases. In other words, when they were alive, the women did not know they had it. Northrup concludes that DCIS is something you die with, and not something you die from. Also reported was a 1995 Lancet study noting that DCIS increased 328% in 12 years, and 200% of the increase was due to the use of mammography.

Dr. Northrup talked about the issue of microcalcifications, and that most doctors feel the need to test them further, often with a biopsy, but that 80% of the time they are benign and goes on to explain further: microcalcifications are present as a result of chronic inflammation in the breast; this is one of the big issues related to mammography; once a doctor finds something, he or she is required to look further; reported data shows that the result of treatment of microcalcifications created more trauma for women; microcalcifications can sit there and be harmless, and you can leave them alone.

Northrup says that DCIS is not harmful. Yet, it must be monitored. Suggested is thermography of the breasts to make sure nothing is growing. If diagnosed DCIS is not generating heat and not changing, it was explained that you can be less aggressive with it. Northrup remarked that many experts believe that DCIS is not a cancer at all, and so many women are being terrified into surgeries that they do not need.

The doctors agreed that DCIS does have to be watched, but it can be watched with the use of thermography. The thermographer looks for inflammation. If there is inflammation,it was explained, then treat the inflammation.  Northrup says we have created a nation that is terrified where every single one of us is a sitting duck, but this is a manmade idea. She implores the listener to  stop the insanity.

I totally agree. Dr. Northrup has vocalized these sentiments before and where she stands on DCIS is no secret. It is the minority position, but it needs to be heard.  Further, much of the information in the broadcast can be corroborated with other sources. While I have heard much of it before–and I even know a bit about thermography, the detailed information provided about the technique and its usefulness in montoring DCIS is something new to me. Thermography in fact can be an avenue that women may take who do not want to be endlessly monitored by mammograms that are potentially harmful and not as accurate. I will certainly do more research on thermography.

Both doctors talked about  prevention in the form of supplements to enhance breast health, as well as changes in diet; there was an emphasis on avoidance of sugar. There was a sense that changes in the breasts are not designated to become cancer and lifestyle changes can help to prevent this from happening.

The most important thing I got from this broadcast is that if you are diagnosed with DCIS, you can use thermography as a method of active surveillance. I think there is a lot of wisdom there. First, do no harm, but do follow up. Thermography is not harmful and it provides a lot of information. The only drawback is that while it is an excellent tool, the insurance companies–well, they love the mammogram so they may not pay for the thermogram. It is controversial, but I’ll take something that is completely not harmful over radiation, biopsy, or surgery. Still, I do feel the need to research this controversy further. I am hopeful that thermography or some other alternative will provide help for the millions of women who endure countless mammograms and derive so little information from them.