In November 2003, the American Cancer Society stated that breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women between the ages of 40 and 44. In the United States, there are approximately 200,000 new cases of breast cancer and more than 40,000 deaths; making the U.S. one of the countries with the highest death rates due to breast cancer. Perhaps the most alarming statistic is 1: 8 women will eventually develop breast cancer over their lifetime.
Generally Accepted Risk Factors for developing breast cancer can be divided into two categories; those a woman can control and those she cannot. Women who choose pharmaceutical hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and oral contraceptives may increase their risk of breast cancer. Additionally, a woman who consumes one or more alcoholic drinks per day or lives a sedentary lifestyle faces an increased risk for acquiring breast cancer. Those factors that are beyond the immediate control but still may lead to increased risk include: onset of menstruation prior to age 12 or onset of menopause after the age 50 and inheritance of the breast cancer genes, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Inheriting the breast cancer genes, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, are known to be associated with both breast and ovarian cancers, but only account for 5-10% of all breast cancer. In 70% of all cases, the cause of breast cancer is still yet unknown.
Conventional screening methods all examine structure. For example, mammography uses X-ray to examine breast tissue. Any structure that has grown large enough to be seen by X-ray could be detected by mammography. However, mammography can have a high false positive rate. In fact, only 1 in 6 biopsies are found to be positive for cancer when found by mammography or clinical breast exam. This leads to increased psychological stress, physical trauma and financial worries.
Other risks of mammography include the radiation exposure, although this has been debated by doctors for many years. Recently published in Radiation Research, 2004 the author suggests that the risks associated with mammography screening may be FIVE times higher than previously assumed and the risk-benefit relationship of mammography needs to be re-examined.
There exists a technology that can detect a breast issue YEARS before a tumor can be seen on X-ray or palpated during an exam. This technology has been approved by the FDA as an adjunctive screening tool since 1982 and offers NO RADIATION, NO COMPRESSION AND NO PAIN. For women who are refusing to have a mammogram or those who want clinical correlation for an existing problem, digital infrared thermal imaging may be of interest.
Thermal cameras detect heat emitted from the body and display it as a picture on a computer monitor. These images are unique to the person and remain stable over time. It is because of these characteristics that thermal imaging is a valuable and effective screening tool.
Breast thermography has undergone extensive research since the 1950s. There are over 800 peer-reviewed studies on breast thermography with more than 300,000 women included in large clinical trials. An abnormal thermogram is 10 times more significant as a future risk indicator for breast cancer than a first order family history of the disease. A persistently abnormal thermogram carries a 22-fold higher risk of future breast cancer.
Medical doctors who interpret the breast scans are board certified and endure an additional two years of training to qualify as a thermologist. Thermography is not limited by breast density and is ideal for women who have had cosmetic or reconstructive surgery. It is recommended that since cancer typically has a 15 year life span from onset to death, that women begin thermographic screenings at age 25.
Thermographic screening is not covered by most insurance companies but is surprisingly affordable for most people. For more information or to find a certified clinic in your area, go to www.proactivehealthonline.com.
Short note about the author
Brenda Witt is co-owner of Proactive Health Solutions in Southern California. She has worked in the medical field for 9 years and is now an American College of Clinical Thermology (ACCT) certified thermographer in the Orange County area. To contact Brenda, email her at [email protected].