Category Archives: thermography

My Mammogram Update

So I had my mammogram in December. I meant to report this right after I had the exam and now it is March! I  am barely blogging with the exception of Everythingnoetic.com, a blog I co-author. (If you are interested in my other projects you can find out by visiting the blog).

What I really liked about the visit is the fact that the mammogram and physician visit was done on the same day. I would highly recommend going to a facility where there is no waiting involved.  Facilities that do it all in one day are wonderful and I will continue to go this route.

I will also continue to provide sporadic updates. Obviously, my focus is elsewhere because everything was ok, but I have not forgotten about this blog. Although there is very little interaction, I can tell you that for a blog that is inactive, I continue to get a lot of hits. I really like being able to facilitate the dissemination of information that is so hard to find. Please feel free to comment if you would like me to look into any topic about breast cancer and I will do my best to make time for it. Blessings to anyone who finds themselves here struggling with issues concerning breast health.

Finally, this week, two things came up directly pertaining to breast cancer and I found myself talking about this blog. Yesterday, I went to the Mind-Body-Spirit Expo in NJ and met people from a thermography center. At the booth, they handed out some literature on breast thermography and here is a link to a site with more information on the process. I also posted several links on the page titled LINKS for anyone wanting more information on going the thermography route in NJ. The other thing that came up is that I heard about a book on breast cancer I wanted to check out. If it turns out to be enlightening, I will blog about that next time.

If anyone is using thermography in place of mammograms or in conjunction with them, I’d love to hear what you think about breast cancer screenings!  

Are Mammograms Safe?

I just heard the breast cancer story related to the risk that certain women face. Perhaps the majority of women are not affected by this news story, but it should cause us to take notice. Are our annual mammograms really necessary?

That mammograms can be dangerous is something that many professionals have overlooked. This blog is above all about caution and making decisions based on the evidence and not fear. Mammograms do come with risks so when you embrace the mammo as something you ought to do to be labeled a good girl, realize that mammograms are not as safe as doctors claim. We remember DES. Trusting everything the medical community says without research and inquiry is not prudent. You have seen on this blog links to information from many doctors that do not support the mainstream. For example, some doctors recommend thermography instead, and I blogged about that before here.

In my last post, I reported that my next mammo would be in September, which is now, but I found out I am not really “due” until November as I did have one right before my surgery. For someone who has no additional risk of breast cancer, I have had a great deal of mammograms and a breast surgery during the past year, just to be sure. Again, I will accept the radiation in November as I chose to go the conventional route for reasons I explain in this post, but after the follow up visit with the breast surgeon, I will rethink the annual mammogram again. I had a reprieve from decision-making this past year because I had a normal biopsy, but now the routine process begins again.

The new research that questions the safety of the mammogram is alarming. It means that perhaps the radiation has done more harm than good for a select group of women. We really need to be more careful with this type of routine screening. So, are mammograms safe? No, they aren’t. Of course, once again, ignoring the issue is not safe either. Mammograms have saved lives. We need to make decisions individually based on the best information out there. While we should never listen to the conventional advice blindly, that does not mean we should stick our heads in the sand.

My Conclusions So Far…

When I cracked my eggs one morning last month I noticed they were stamped with pink ribbons (really), and then I caught part of the Giants game that was adorned with pink ribbons, and I thought, is there any industry that does not get on the pink ribbon bandwagon? I mean, we are aware.  I think we are very aware already, and it seems silly that the Giants were wearing pink socks that day.

So what does being aware really do? We are aware of the mammography guidelines, but we aren’t aware of a lot of things, which is why there are unnecessary biopsies and unnecessary surgeries, and why there are women who do not have the treatment they need in time. So we need to be aware of our choices and what we should be doing, but not that breast cancer exists. We know about breast cancer, but we don’t really know our options.

There are two sides to this issue: one is that there is hysteria, hyperawareness, a lack of real knowledge on the subject and overtreatment, but then there is the other side. What if we really are catching it early?

Here is what I have concluded after researching the various methods of tracking microcalcifications: there is no way to know if an aggressive form of DCIS lurks without biopsy. Although the chances of having an aggressive form of DCIS is miniscule when going by the percentages, a surgical biopsy can eliminate that “what if” entirely. On some level, it seems like overkill because no one will ever know if the bits of tissue would have gone on to become a cancer, but there really aren’t any protocols in place to watch and wait.

Those who call for active surveillance have not come up with a proper method. Thermography could be a good way to montior breasts, but it  is still rather controversial, and I think more research is needed–or at least more round table discussions so that all the experts can hash it out. Dr. Susan Love’s website says that microcalcifications can only be seen by mammogram. If that is the case, then following them with thermography that monitors breast changes  may not see a cancer until it has gotten too big. At least, that is Dr. Love’s conclusion.

I can see why there is controversy. Some doctors see thermography as a way to monitor breast health, claiming that it can detect breast cancers years before they arise, while other doctors claim that only mammogram can detect these early cancers. I don’t know the truth. In everything I have read, I can’t figure which side is correct. The conventional doctors claim that thermography has never been proven to find cancer early, while supporters say not only can thermography find early IBC, but it is much safer than the mammograms that can actually cause DCIS to spread.  Following up with mammograms is really the only option aside from biopsy, but most doctors will not condone that with a BIRADS 4 rating anyway. Plus, it’s not a great solution.

I have read that the aggressive type of DCIS can grow quickly. When doctors tell us not to wait six months, I’m thinking, maybe they know something I don’t. DCIS can change at any time, and we can’t be screened daily, weekly, or even monthly. Living with DCIS is kind of the same risk as keeping all your money in a 401K when you are very close to retirement. You just don’t know when the market will crash.  You just don’t know when a noninvasive cancer will become invasive. Not finding it by not looking for it is one solution by I think we don’t yet have the data to support that position.

In the end, the decision comes down to risk and it is a valid argument that we can live with the risk, but if the risk of biopsy is not great, why not eliminate the cancer risk completely?

Now, there are risks associated with biopsy too, and pain, and time off from work, and those are things that are important to keep in mind. If there is only a slight risk that you might have DCIS, and there is a slight risk of needle track seeding with the stereotactic biopsy, why even bother? It is a valid question. With microcalcifications, some of those types of biopsies fail and plus, you have the risk of actually spreading a cancer, so why do something that can actually harm your body?

That is why I see surgical biopsy as a good option. (Here is a wonderful page that goes through all biopsy options and provides a thorough explanation. This is from a site written by a nurse and survivor).

As far as the DCIS controversy is concerned, I don’t know if they are catching a cancer early, or they are doing too many biopsies. It is one or the other, or maybe something in between. I do know that there is controversy and confusion, but we still have decisions to make.  I do think we can agree that we are aware, aware of breast cancer, and aware of some treatments, but there is a lot we don’t know still.

In the end, no test can really discern what the microcalcifications are with the exception of biopsy. And with all the hysteria surrounding breast cancer, it is hard to ignore anything they find. As I have heard a number of critics say, if they find something, they have to biopsy it. So true. But I’m not sure that not looking is the answer. I am hoping current trials on DCIS/suspected DCIS will yield some real results that the mainstream medical community can live with. Until then, we really have very few options.

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.