Another Option to Mammography?
Yes, it is October and the Pink Ribbons are flying. Breast Health Awareness is in full swing, so let’s share information and tips about how you can make small changes that create big results in your overall breast health.
Right off the bat it is worth repeating that thermograpghy is an outstanding option for all women as a screening tool for breast health. If you are over the age of 50 then mammography also has a role to play but everyone young and old benefits from a safe and simply thermography. Thermography emits NO radiation or harmful impact of any kind and is capable of detecting some cancers long before mammography. Lets be clear, we are not recommending thermography as replacement for mammography but we have to recognize the advantages that thermography offers and use them to our benefit.
Recent changes in the recommendation of mammography includes withholding mammography until the age of 50. This is due to the potentially damaging radiation that comes with each mammogram. Getting routine mammograms prior to the age of 50 has been shown in studies to disproportionately increase breast cancer risk. When this recommendation was first announced it left many women feeling unsure about how to best defend themselves against the risk of breast cancer. The answer is overwhelming to get a breast thermogram. Thermography has been an FDA approved screening test for breast cancer since 1982. The technology has advanced dramatically and today’s women can have confidence in the ability of themography to detect suspicious vascular patterns and take evasive action long before a biopsy is even recommended.
Thermography when combined with mammography increases the sensitivity of detecting a breast lesion to 98%. That is very reassuring. Mammography has historically missed or allowed active breast cancer lesions to go undetected at a rate that causes concern. If a breast lesion is present and a given test fails to detect it then this is called a “false negative”. The test was “falsely negative” in it’s report. Mammography has shown problems in the past with having a false negative rate that is not optimal. The false negative rate for women age 40 to 49 has been around 60%. This occurs because mammography is simply a picture of breast density and if a cancer lesion is smaller than 1 cm then it can be difficult to see. Thermography on the other hand is a physiological test. Yes it too presents a picture of sorts but more importantly it is detecting heat coming from the breast. Cancer cells have a higher activity level than normal cells and as such will develop increased blood flow to serve it’s needs. This increase in blood flow to an area of increased activity (cancer foci) results in a heat pattern that can be detected by a special thermographic camera.
In a study published in The Breast Journal back in 1997, 100 breast cancer cases were followed to evaluate the sensitivity of detection of mammogram, thermography and clinical exam. While mammograms detected abnormalities in only 66% of these breast cancer cases, thermography was positive in 87%. The really good news is that when clinical exam is combined with mammography and thermography the sensitivity (ability to detect disease) rose to 98%.
A study from the American Society of Breast Surgeons and published in the American Journal of Surgery in 2008, evaluated the sensitivity of breast thermography in detecting malignant breast cancer. In 92 patients scheduled for breast biopsy, thermography showed a 97% sensitivity rate. That’s means it positively identified an abnormality 97% of the time. The amazing component of this study is that these results were obtained by physicians new to the practice of thermography, who had only 2 hours of instruction on the proper reading of thermographic images. Image the power of this tool when in the hands of trained clinicians with proper training and experience.
Thermography is not a perfect test but it has proven itself to be a reliable adjunct that improves our ability to detect breast problems and take action before they become true tumors, or detect breast cancer and take action at an early stage. In an upcoming post I will tell you of a woman who had breast issues detected on a thermogram and then took action to reverse her situation and demonstrated an improvement on a subsequent test.
So who would benefit from thermography? Thermography is a safe option for any patient but here are a few examples of situations where it truly shines:
- Young patients in general to document a baseline for later comparison, which will enable earlier detection.
- Young patients with a family history of breast cancer – allows surveillance without radiation exposure. Young tissue is more susceptible to the ionizing radiation of mammogram and therefore increases risk for later cancer development, making thermography a wiser choice.
- The safe monitoring of suspicious breast cysts or nodules that have not yet warranted biopsy. Repeat radiation exposure would increase risk.
- Increases the sensitivity of detecting breast cancer in those women currently having yearly mammograms.
- Following status post breast cancer patients for recurrence.
Thermography has been shown to detect some breast lesions earlier than mammography and so can lead to earlier detection and referral for mammography for further delineation and treatment. It is safe for all women and should be considered as part of your best defense as you improve your own awareness this October. I am so confident in this technology that I have brought it into my office and make it available to all women. If you have any interest in pursuing breast thermography simply contact my office, The LaValle Metabolic Institute, in Cincinnati at (513) 924-5300 for more information or visit our website at lmihealth,com
Gary Huber, D.O., AOBEM
President – LaValle Metabolic Institute
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