In the United States, American women are told to begin annual mammographic screening for breast cancer at the age of 40. Long before we've reached this age, we are advised to perform a monthly breast exam and see our doctors for a clinical breast exam (CBE) annually as well. However, the detection rate of breast cancer for CBE is only 47% when the tumors are less than 1 centimeter while mammography has given us a 70% detection rate. By the time a tumor is detected by palpation or found mammographically, it has already been growing and developing for 8-10 years.
Mammography has a high false positive rate. Only 1:6 biopsies are found to be positive for cancer when performed due to a positive mammogram or CBE. This places additional stressors on women who undergo these procedures.
Other risks of mammography include the radiation that each breast is exposed to during a mammogram. During a chest X-ray, a person receives 1/1000 of a RAD, or radiation absorbed dose. This type of X-ray is a high energy X-ray. During a mammogram, however, the X-ray used is a low energy X-ray and results in 1 RAD or a 1000-fold greater exposure than a simple chest X-ray. It has been suggested that the low energy X-ray used may cause greater biological damage which is cumulative over time. In a journal entitled Radiation Research and published in 2004, the author concludes that the risks associated with mammography screening may be FIVE times higher than previously assumed and the risk-benefit relationship of mammography exposures need to be re-examined.
In 1982, the FDA approved thermography as an adjunctive tool for breast cancer screening. Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging, also known as DITI measures heat emitted from the body and is accurate to 1/100th of a degree. Certified Clinical Thermographers follow strict guidelines and transmit their scans for interpretation by board certified thermologists. DITI examines physiology, NOT structure. It is in this capacity that DITI can monitor breast HEALTH over time and alert a patient or physician to a developing problem; possibly before a lump can be seen on X-ray or palpated clinically. There are no test limitations such as breast density. Women with cosmetic implants are great candidates for thermography which emits no radiation and no compression. Contact is never made during a thermographic scan.
Clinical research studies continue to support thermography's role as an adjunctive tool in breast cancer screening and the ONLY tool that measures breast health. There are now more than 800 publications on over 300,000 women in clinical trials. A recent finding published in the American Journal of Radiology in 2003 showed that thermography has 99% sensitivity in identifying breast cancer with single examinations and limited views. Scientists concluded that a negative thermogram is powerful evidence that cancer is not present.
In conclusion, women need to begin breast health screening early; as young as age 25. This can provide women with the earliest possible indication that further investigation is necessary. It takes approximately 15 years for a breast cancer to form and lead to death. If "early detection is the best prevention," let's start using technology that truly allows for the earliest possible alert to a developing problem.
Thermographic screening is not covered by most insurance companies but is surprisingly affordable for most people. For more information or to find a certified clinic in your area, go to www.proactivehealthonline.com.
Brenda Witt is co-owner of Proactive Health Solutions in Southern California. She is an American College of Clinical Thermology (ACCT) certified thermographer in the Orange County area.