Until recently, the medical community urged every woman over the age of 40 to get yearly mammograms.
As the dangers of this test, which uses ionizing radiation, came to light, the American Cancer Society upped the minimum screening age to 45 (1).
Some groups such as the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, an expert group that reviews the latest research findings on the subject, loosened their recommendations even further, suggesting mammography screening for most women start at age 50. They further state the frequency be shortened to every two years until the age of 74 (2).
While the two groups don’t necessarily agree on a minimum screening date, they both seem to admit mammograms are not entirely safe, something advocates of traditional medicine have stated for years.
How Safe Are Mammograms?
If you ask any conventional cancer organization, they will clearly tell you that mammograms are essentially safe and that the benefits of the test far outweigh any negative side effects. But cancer is big business. And with big business comes expectations of big bottom lines for investors. Mammograms alone are a multi-billion dollar business.
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A 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that screening jumped from about 30 percent of women 40 and older in 1985, to about 70 percent in 2012 (3). Those numbers are undoubtedly higher today.
The study also shows, however, that mammograms “have little to no influence in the reduction of the number of women who ultimately die of breast cancer.” Add to that the results from other studies show that mammograms can actually increase the risk of cancer.
Mammograms expose your body to excessively high levels of radiation—1000 times more than an average chest x-ray. This radiation contributes to cell mutations that can lead to breast cancer. One study even shows that radiation used to “cure” cancer can often result in second cancers (4).
It’s also a well-known fact that mammograms compress breast tissue, which can spread any cancerous cells, should you have them. According to Dr. Samuel Epstein, a top cancer expert, “The premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, each 1 rad exposure increasing breast cancer risk by about 1 percent, with a cumulative 10 percent increased risk for each breast over a decade’s screening.“ (5)
What About Positive Screenings ?
Another issue with mammograms is that the test has an unprecedentedly high rate of false positives—as much as 6 percent. While this number may not seem alarming on its own, false positives typically lead to expensive repeat screenings, which expose you to further radiation.
False results can also cause doctors to suggest unnecessary invasive procedures like biopsies, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The issue of false positives suddenly turns from a 6 percent risk, into a 35 percent increased risk of having surgery (6).
In 2009, researchers reviewed breast cancer screening and mammography. The researchers determined that screening led to a 30 percent over-diagnosis and over treatment. “…it means that for every 2000 women invited for screening throughout 10 years, one will avoid dying of breast cancer and 10 healthy women, who would not have been diagnosed if there had not been screening, will be treated unnecessarily. Furthermore, more than 200 women will experience important psychological distress including anxiety and uncertainty for years because of false positive findings.” (7)
What’s The Alternative?
Your doctor won’t likely tell you, but there is a much safer and more accurate alternative to mammography called thermography.
This technology does not use radiation. Instead, it scans for heat levels in your body to detect any inflammation. It essentially creates a digital map of your body, showing any heat patterns that suggest an abnormality. The technology is so safe in fact that pregnant and nursing women can use it.
Where mammograms focus on anatomical changes such as masses or lumps in the breast tissue, thermal imaging looks at vascular changes in the breast and detects blood flow patterns, inflammation, and asymmetries.
Heat indicates inflammation, and according to Philip Getson, D.O, a Board Certified Thermologist who has reviewed more than 15,000 thermographic studies, inflammation is typically present in all precancerous and cancerous cells (8). Thermography can essentially detect where these cancerous cells will develop long before they actually do.
Dr. Geston states, “It is widely acknowledged that cancers, even in their earliest stages, need nutrients to maintain or accelerate their growth. In order to facilitate this process, blood vessels are caused to remain open, inactive blood vessels are activated, and new ones are formed through a process known as neoangiogenesis.”
“This vascular process causes an increase in surface temperature in the affected regions, which can be viewed with infrared imaging cameras. Additionally, the newly formed or activated blood vessels have a distinct appearance, which thermography can detect.” (9)
Why Use Thermogram For Breast Cancer?
The best part of a thermogram for breast cancer detection is that thermography uses no mechanical pressure or ionizing radiation like mammography. Thermography can also essentially detect where cancerous cells will develop long before they actually do.
Researchers say thermography can detect signs of breast cancer as much as 10 years earlier than either mammography or a physical exam.
Dr. Geston agrees, stating, “Since thermal imaging detects changes at the cellular level, studies suggest that this test can detect activity 8 to 10 years before any other test. This makes it unique in that it affords us the opportunity to view changes before the actual formation of the tumor. Studies have shown that by the time a tumor has grown to sufficient size to be detectable by physical examination or mammography, it has in fact been growing for about seven years, achieving more than 25 doublings of the malignant cell colony. At 90 days, there are two cells, at one year, there are 16 cells, and at five years, there are 1,048,576 cells—an amount that is still undetectable by a mammogram.”
This makes thermography invaluable. Extensive clinical trials show that breast thermography significantly augments the long-term survival rates of recipients by as much as 61 percent (10).
One study that followed 1,527 patients for 12 years with initially healthy breasts and abnormal thermograms revealed that 40 percent of these women developed malignancies within 5 years.
Researchers claim “thermography is useful not only as a predictor of the risk factor for cancer, but also to assess the more rapidly growing neoplasms.” They concluded, “An abnormal thermogram is the single most important marker of high risk for the future development of breast cancer.” (11)
A thermogram is a safe and effective tool for screening for breast cancer as well as a number of other diseases. It can not only determine the overall health of your breasts, but it has the potential to detect breast cell anomalies long before a mammogram. Knowing this information gives you the opportunity to make the necessary lifestyle changes to improve your health instead of waiting for a cancer diagnosis.