Should you get mammograms?

Early signs of breast cancer.

Early signs of breast cancer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only is a mammogram uncomfortable, but if you do have a tumor, Squashing your breast is the worst thing you can do –

Breast compression is a big deal — probably bigger than most women realize. In med school, doctors are trained to examine breasts as gently as possible. That’s because rough handling can stimulate a tumor into activity. And obviously, squashing breasts between two cold plates qualifies as rough handling, and then some.

Right? Then add radiation to the mix. Dr. Wright has been warning about the dangers of mammography for years.

Many women have reservations about mammography, and for good reasons. Some studies have found the sensitivity of mammography to be as low as 25%, which means it only detects about one quarter of breast cancers. Mammograms are also well known for producing upsetting and stressful false positives.

Because mammography involves radiation, each mammogram increases risk of breast cancer by 1%. So a decade of mammograms increases your chance of getting breast cancer by 10%.

Fortunately, in the 1950s it was discovered that cancerous tissue maintains a steady temperature independent of cooling or heating the surrounding tissue — and the concept of thermography for breast cancer screening was born. Thermography gained FDA approval in 1982 and continued to evolve, leading up to this latest version, called infrared thermography.

Infrared thermography only misses 5% to 10% of cancers and the number of false positives is equally low. Infrared thermography detects differences in heat given off by the body (in this case, the breasts) by precise measurement of infrared frequency wavelengths. It doesn’t involve radiation, so thermography won’t increase cancer risk.

Thermography also detects functional changes in breast tissue, finding areas of abnormally increased or decreased blood flow that could prove cancerous. This is a huge advantage, since cancer takes approximately 5 to10 years to reach a size detectable with mammography.

My colleagues at the Tahoma Clinic and I now recommend a yearly breast thermogram starting at age 40, or age 30 if you have a family history of breast cancer. Give thermography a try, and I think you’ll find it enhances your prevention efforts.

So no squishing, no radiation, and it can catch cancer earlier. Sounds like its something we need to look into, don’t you think? So I started to look into it…

Not So Fast!

It comes as no surprise that mammogram providers, whose livelihood depends on this medieval testing, and the FDA say that this is not a reliable alternative. But here’s whats happened in Canada –

Medical experts take issue with claims trumpeting the benefits of thermography in diagnosing breast disease.

Nancy Wadden, a St. John’s doctor who chairs the mammography accreditation program of the Canadian Association of Radiologists, says women are paying big money for a test that is “actually useless.”

Nancy Wadden chairs the mammography accreditation program of the Canadian Association of Radiologists. She says the “useless” thermography tests add to waiting times for women who actually need treatment. (CBC)

Wadden says that women who actually need treatment face longer wait times because of women who register false positives after thermography.

“These women have a significant number of false positives, so then they are coming and they are clogging up my ultrasound list and my mammogram list and then displacing the people who really need to have the test, who are waiting there,” Wadden said.

“Their length of time to get a diagnosis is prolonged, because we’ve got people who have had this useless test that has given a false positive result.”

(note that in Canada you go on a waiting list for medical procedures)

So where does that leave us? 

The “new and improved” 3D tomosynthesis mammogram still requires compression and actually delivers even MORE ionizing radiation than the older version. This is not a step forward…

This article was getting really long – but here is another article I found on the pros and cons of thermography. 

And another – Mammography – Are there Pros or is it just a Con?

And an interesting video about the absurdities involved in diagnosing breast cancer. You found a lump. So you go have a mammogram to verify that you have a lump? He talks in a monotone, but its really informative – so stick with it.

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