The month of October brings the country’s focus to Breast Health, specifically, raising awareness on Breast Cancer. As we are reminded of those who we have lost and those who continue to fight this horrible disease, we can’t help wonder if there could have been another test or warning to predict the situation sooner.
Detecting breast cancer can be tricky and mammograms are often the recommended screening tool. However, having a mammogram can be a complicated process. First, women with dense breasts often have suspicious lesions, such as benign lumps that can be mistaken for breast cancer, causing unnecessary worry. Secondly, mammograms are a type of x-ray that expose the breasts to ionizing radiation, which poses its own set of risks to the breasts themselves. While the mammogram is the most commonly practiced breast cancer detection device, there are other methods, such as the thermogram, that have less impact and side effects on the body.
Thermography, otherwise known as thermal imaging, is the analysis and assessment of the heat given off by the body’s tissues. Thermal imaging measures the heat that it sees and gives it different colors in relation to the range of temperatures present. Heat = inflammation. It’s especially helpful in detecting cancerous cells as they require a continuous source of blood.
And since an extra development of blood flows, we begin to see the formation of new blood vessels, otherwise known as angiogenesis. As there is more blood flow to the cancerous cells, there is more heat. This extra heat gets picked up in the thermal imaging when compared to the generally even distribution of blood and heat to the body.
Thermograms are effective at detecting breast cancer in women and, in Western medicine, is seen as a complementary diagnostic following a mammography. A major difference between a thermogram and a mammogram is in the overall health risk that each test presents. A mammogram uses radiation to detect for breast cancer, which can be argued that the process alone can actually increase the risk of cancer itself. A thermogram does not use radiation, rather picking up on the natural processes going on in the body and any changes in it that might seem unusual.
With the increase of wireless communications, EMFs and countless other sources of radiation, our bodies are already absorbing larger quantities of radiation than in previous generations. Adding consistent testing for early detection of breast cancer through mammograms can be an extra risk.
Balancing out the risks of using certain diagnostic procedures for detection is very important. Breast cancer risks increase with age and mammograms seem to be more effective at catching breast cancer in later years. Thermograms play an important part in the breast cancer screening process, as they can detect the blood vessel growth that lays the foundation for future cancerous cell growth, much sooner.
Why you should consider a thermogram:
1. Early detection: Cancerous cells require lots of blood flow and resources to continually grow, this increases overall heat in the body area as more resources and movement occur. The thermogram picks up on this heat increase earlier than a conventional mammogram. Early detection means a better chance of survival and less extreme or invasive treatment protocols.
2. No radiation & less invasive: Mammograms require putting pressure on the breast tissue and then exposing the tissue to x-rays, a form of radiation that can increase cancer risk. A thermogram does not use radiation at all.
3. Cost effective: thermography is relatively inexpensive compared with mammography and may be repeated if indicated with no risk of adding more radiation to the body.
Thermograms are effective in detecting all types of breast cancer, except a type called ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS). However, DCIS is classified as stage 0 cancer or actually a precancerous condition, but not actually breast cancer. In a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine in March 2017, researchers found mammography led to an almost 50% rate of overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Another study in 2012 found that for every 2000 women screened over 10 years, only one will avoid dying of breast cancer, where 10 healthy women in the same time frame will be treated unnecessarily.
In naturopathic philosophy, the focus is on healthy living, preventive medicine and healing. While we always address the root cause of any disease, our first line of therapy is to do no harm. This includes safe diagnostic procedures with the least amount of risk.