By Jennifer Trejo, ND
In October, we always see lots of pink ribbons in an effort to bring awareness to breast cancer. That leads me to a question: “Do women have a role in their breast health or do they simply wait for a mammogram and biopsy to confirm their worst fears?” I believe all women should take an active role in preventing this disease.
For many women, mammography is not their first step towards breast health. Many women are choosing to use non-invasive and safer methods such as thermography and monthly self-examinations as well as annual exams by their physician. But what is thermography? Thermography uses digital infrared thermal imaging to detect and record the infrared heat radiating from the surface of the body. Clusters of abnormal cells that can develop into a cancer often have an increased blood supply that leads to an elevation in the temperature of the skin over the area. With thermography, there is no radiation, no pain, no compressing of the breasts, and it is affordable. Thermography has the ability to warn women years before any other procedure that inflammation is present that could become cancer. If a high score is received on a breast thermogram, a qualified practitioner can assist in recommending changes in lifestyle, supplements, or further testing to get your score, and therefore your risk of breast cancer, lowered.
A critical difference between thermography and mammography is the ability to detect problems early enough to use preventive measures, rather than detecting disease at a stage where treatment is imminently required. Mammography uses radiation to image only the soft fleshy tissue of the breasts. Thermography images a much larger area including the entire breast region, between breasts and axillary views (Ref: Clinical Thermography, Dr. George E. Chapman). Thermography can see inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a type of cancer that does not develop as lumps or masses in your breast. IBC cells block lymph vessels in the skin of your breast. This type of cancer grows rapidly and often spreads to other organs in your body (Ref: Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Questions and Answers, www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/sites-types/ibc).
Thermograms can be useful for younger women, since 23% of breast cancers occur in women under the age of 49. Breast cancer in younger women is generally more aggressive and has lower survival rates (Ref: breastthermography.com, Imagining for Younger Women). Women ages 20-40 have denser breasts which makes it much harder for mammograms to be effective.
Studies Have Shown:
- An abnormal breast thermogram is an important marker of high risk for problems in the tissues. The marker is said to be 8 times more significant as a marker for disease than a family history of cancer.
- A person with a persistently abnormal thermogram has a 10 times greater risk of developing breast cancer in the future when no lifestyle or other changes are made.
- When added to regular physician breast exams, survival rates (if cancer is detected) are increased by up to 61%.
- A positive breast thermogram does not necessarily mean you have cancer. The increased heat can be suggestive of presence of many different breast abnormalities such as mastitis, benign tumors, fibrocystic breast, and hormonal imbalances.
- In a study from 1998, 100 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ were diagnosed pre-operatively using a clinical breast exam, mammography, and infrared imaging. The number of tumors diagnosed with mammography alone was 85%; the number of tumors diagnosed by including a breast exam and breast thermography increased to 95%. (Ref: The Breast Journal, Volume 4, Number 4, 1998, 245-251)
It is essential that you examine your breasts at least once a month. If you are premenopausal, you should examine them shortly after your period, when hormone levels are low, so that premenopausal lumps aren’t confused with a cancerous lump. If you are postmenopausal, you should examine your breasts at the same time each month. You should examine your breasts in the mirror and look for the following:
- Unusual skin lump or dimpling.
- Increased size of one breast.
- One breast appears lower than the other.
- Discharge or bleeding from the nipple.
- An enlargement of the lymph nodes.
- Color or texture changes in the skin of the breast.
After a few months, you will become familiar with how your breasts feel, and you’ll be able to detect very small abnormalities.
Mammograms look at anatomical changes in the breast, as they detect masses or lumps in the breast tissue. Thermograms look at vascular changes in the breast, as they detect blood flow patterns, inflammation and asymmetries. Because of these differences, some women are choosing to get annual thermograms and incorporating physician and self breast exams to look for masses and lumps. If something suspicious is found by these methods, a mammogram or, even better, an ultra sound, could be used to target the area(s) of concern. This can allow for a more proactive role in breast health for a woman.
Thermography is useful for more than breast health. There are many other health issues that thermography can help with. Visit www.abundantlifewellnesscenter.com and click on “Thermography” for more information.
Jennifer Trejo is a Traditional Naturopath and owner of Abundant Life Wellness Center in Grapevine. She can be reached at: 817-328-1921 or visit: www.abundantlifewellnesscenter.com
About Tony Cecala
Tony is a business strategist. He publishes the Holistic Networker and produces the Wellness Expo. In his spare time he reads about technology and the mind.