by Meagan Murphy
Since embarking on my journey as Director of The Breast Archives, I have talked to hundreds of women about their breasts. Sadly, one of the topics that comes up repeatedly is breast cancer. Every time I screen the film, women speak with me about their breast health. Some want to share their difficult journeys with me; others just want to talk about their fears. Last month, a woman told me about the discomfort and fear she experienced at her recent mammogram. She said, “My aunt had breast cancer. I worry that, because my doctor is concerned about my family history, I am exposing myself to radiation by getting mammograms year after year. I can’t decide which is the greater risk.” I suggested thermography as a safer alternative to an annual mammogram and, as if often the case, it was the first time they’d heard the term; “Thermography? What’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”
What Is Breast Thermography?
Breast thermography is a 15-minute infrared technology that visualizes and measures heat activity in the body. Early detection of disease is possible with absolutely no radiation and no body contact. The procedure can assess breast cancer risk, which is something mammography cannot do. Mammography is a test of anatomy. It can only detect mass. Thermography, on the other hand, can detect the inflammation that occurs before a mass is formed. Thus, one of the most promising aspects of thermography is its potential to spot anomalies years before mammography can, because it can detect changes at a cellular level.
Cancers, even in their earliest stages, need nutrients to maintain or accelerate their growth. This “feeding” activates blood vessels and increases surface temperature in the affected region, creating distinct heat patterns. These can be detected through thermography, which measures subtle differences in skin temperature. Through this imaging, thermography can detect abnormalities associated not only with cancer, but also with infection, fibrocystic disease, or other pathology. It can also detect lymphatic congestion—so important for women.
A Certified Clinical Thermographer’s View
According to Dale Thomas, CCT and owner of Healthy Body Thermography, “What our clients love most about getting a thermogram is that there is no compression. No cold glass, no pain. Just a specially designed camera on a tripod that takes infrared pictures of their body. Quick and easy.” Thomas is in business with her sister, Leslie Bowden, and together, they own and manage several thermography clinics in both Southern New Jersey and New England.
“Because it is a very safe space for women, where they have our full attention and care,” Thomas further revealed to me, “they share all kinds of personal things with us. And probably the most rewarding part of our work is how grateful they are to have found us. We have a broad range of clients, from breast cancer survivors who just refuse to get one more ounce of radiation, to women—younger and older, who want to monitor their breast or overall health on a yearly basis and be one step ahead of any risk. We get lots of hugs.”
The Benefits of Thermography
- Thermography poses no risk of radiation or other injury to the body.
- Studies show that a thermogram can identify precancerous or cancerous cells even earlier than a mammogram.
- No referral is required. Medical doctors, called thermologists, who are specially trained to interpret the thermograms, create a report from the images, which goes directly to the person whose thermogram it is.
- Thermography produces unambiguous results which cut down on additional testing.
- Thermography is a tool of prevention. It shows inflammation anywhere in the body. And while not designed for self-interpretation, a woman can see where there is heat or coolness on the torso, affording the opportunity to work with a holistic practitioner to make lifestyle adjustments for maximum wellbeing before medical intervention is required.
The Risks of Mammography
Because current statistics indicate that 1 in 7 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, tracking the health of our breasts is more important now than ever. Mammography may not be the best tool for the job. Mammography has its place; it can nail down the precise location of a tumor. But as a regular monitoring tool, it is an unwise choice as the toxic effects of mammogram radiation is finally being acknowledged as a significant factor in the development of breast cancer.
- 80 percent of breast lumps are non-cancerous.
- 70 percent of breast cancers are found through breast self-exams, rather than mammography.
- While family history is a factor in breast cancer risk, it is overemphasized. More than 75% of women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease and less than 10% have a known gene mutation that increases risk. (National Breast Cancer Coalition)
- In 2010, the New England Journal of Medicine, published the first study in years on the efficacy of mammograms. It found that routine mammograms reduced cancer death rates by only 0.4 deaths per 1,000 women, an amount so small it might as well be zero.
- Mammograms carry an unacceptably high rate of false positive results: up to six percent. These false positives then lead to repeat screenings, more radiation exposure, and often invasive and unnecessary procedures including biopsies and chemotherapy. According to the NEJM, 1.3 million women had unnecessary biopsies in 2010.
- The more mammograms you have the more harm they do. Christine Northrup “guarantees” that, if you have a mammogram every year for 10 years you’ll also have a biopsy.
- American women are increasingly undergoing bilateral mastectomies for Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), most commonly “detected” by mammograms. DCIS is a condition of abnormal and non-cancerous cells contained within the breast’s milk ducts that have not spread to tissues nearby. It is categorized as a “pre-cancerous” condition by conventional medicine – doctors who like to take the narrative an extra step by classifying it as a ticking time bomb. In fact, it is a called zero stage cancer and has emerged in part because high-resolution mammograms pick it up on breast cancer screening tests. These DCIS diagnoses have increased the number of women being diagnosed with cancer by over 60,000 annually. They now represent about 25% of screen detected breast cancer…and huge profits for the medical industrial complex. Christine Northrup says that the problem is that women have been trained to be so afraid of breast cancer that they’ll often willingly sacrifice their breasts just to relieve their anxiety—or what other doctors call “surveillance fatigue.”
Ask Your Health Care Professional About Thermography
Isn’t it ironic that the mammogram—the principle diagnostic test given to women to help detect and prevent breast cancer—is responsible for increasing women’s risk for developing it? Do some research of your own (more links are below) and then self-advocate. Talk to your nurse or doctor about thermography today. Make the switch from mammography to thermography. I did it years ago, and I’ve never looked back.