For decades women have been told that annual mammograms are the best form of testing for breast cancer. However, in recent times, this approach has come under increased scrutiny and the results are sobering.
A recent 25-year Canadian survey reported that mammography does not reduce death rates, but rather may even increase them. (1) A separate Danish study of 60,000 women who had undergone mammographies also reported that those women wrongly diagnosed with breast cancer (the “false-positives”), were at greater risk of developing malignancies because of the ensuing barrage of tests, treatments and procedures following the diagnosis, all of which had side effects of their own.
The study also mentioned that the mental and emotional stress of a cancer diagnosis suppresses the immune system, reducing the body’s own capacity to successfully fight off disease.(2)
Among the safer alternatives is a type of testing called thermography, a non invasive, non toxic and painless form of digital infrared imaging. While mammography primarily tries to detect an actual physical tumor, thermography registers the heat generated by increased blood vessel circulation and metabolic changes associated with a pre-cancerous state. Detecting risk markers early can prevent subsequent tumor development and growth, a great advantage over mammography.
In addition, thermography can also effectively screen fibrocystic, dense or enhanced breasts, or tissue from women who are on hormone replacement therapy or nursing. Mammograms can struggle in this area.
As with any testing, success lies in the accurate interpretation, so utmost care must be taken to work with only the most qualified doctors. At present, thermography is not convered by most insurance companies, but the cost of testing is reasonable. For more information about thermography, you can visit http://www.iact-org.org.
(1) BMJ, 2014; 348:g366
(2) Cancer Epidemiol, 2014; 38:619-22
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