For decades, women over 40 have been advised to get annual mammograms . . . but is that really the best advice?
Several studies over the past few years have concluded that mammograms do not save lives, and may actually harm more women than they help, due to false positives, over treatment, and radiation-induced cancers.
This latest study is also one of the longest and largest. As reported by the New York Times:
"One of the largest and most meticulous studies of mammography ever done, involving 90,000 women and lasting a quarter-century, has added powerful new doubts about the value of the screening test for women of any age.
It found that the death rates from breast cancer and from all causes were the same in women who got mammograms and those who did not. And the screening had harms: one in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman's health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation."
And if you have silicone implants or dense breasts, you are even more likely to get false positives.
What does HealthSpan recommend?
It starts with an anti-cancer lifestyle. Mammograms are portrayed as the best form of "prevention" a woman can get. But early diagnosis is not the same as prevention.
Inflammation is the underlying issue that dictates cancerous tumor initiation, progression and growth. Studies suggest that 30 percent to 40 percent of all kinds of cancer can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle!
Here are the common-sense healthy lifestyle strategies, that HealthSpan recommends:
Avoid sugar, especially fructose, and processed foods. All forms of sugar are harmful to our health in general and promote cancer. Refined sugars, however, are clearly one of the most harmful and should be avoided as much as possible. This automatically means avoiding processed foods, as most are loaded with sugars (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup, HFCS).
Avoid pesticides and GMO products. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are modified to withstand applications of Roundup. That means the entire field can be sprayed to prevent weeds, far easier than spraying just the problem areas. The main ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, and the World Health Organization recently classified glyphosate as a ‘probable carcinogen.’
Exercise regularly. Exercise lowers your risk of cancer because it drives your insulin levels down, and controlling your insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risks. Exercise also helps lower your estrogen levels, which explains why exercise appears to be particularly potent against breast cancer.
Eat more veggies. No single food or food component can protect you against cancer by itself. But strong evidence does show that a diet filled with a variety of vegetables helps lower risk for many cancers. It is the synergy of compounds working together in the overall diet that offers the strongest cancer protection. I recommend at least 1/2 plate full at every meal, including breakfast.
Eat lots of omega-3 rich foods. Omega-3 deficiency can be an underlying factor for cancer. Foods such as: wild caught mackerel, salmon and cod, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds are all high in omega-3's, just to name a few. A recent article from the New York Times found that many fish labeled as "wild caught" were actually farmed. To ensure you are eating the healthiest fish, we recommend purchasing your fish from Vital Choice. They also offer fish oil supplements that we trust.
Choose Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT). The hormones used in BHRT are identical to those your body makes, which when in balance, don't cause cancer. BHRT must be prescribed properly, however. The weak estrogen estriol must be used. It blocks strong estrogens that can cause cancer, yet does not stimulate growth the way other estrogens, such as the pill and conventional hormone replacement therapy, do. The estrogens must always be paired with the hormone progesterone, even if you had a hysterectomy. The July 2015 journal Nature described how progesterone turns estrogen into an anti-cancer hormone. This has been suspected for decades, so it was exciting to see that the mechanism was finally discovered.
Avoid the Pill and other hormonal methods of contraception. The hormones in the pill and other hormonal methods of contraception increase breast cancer risk. Most women can use the Paragard IUD, a hormone-free IUD with equal or better contraception. A gynecologist can insert it. Let your gynecologist know in advance you want Paragard. In Kansas City, Merena is the most common IUD. It contains an artificial progesterone that promotes estrogen induced cancers.
Avoid plastics, BPA, phthalates, and other xenoestrogens. These are common chemicals known to be hormone disruptors, estrogen mimickers, and endocrine disruptors which are wreaking havoc on our health. These are estrogen-like compounds that have been linked to increased breast cancer risk and can be found in plastic shopping bags, plastic food storage containers, plastic wrap and baggies, canned food and beverages, detergents, beauty products like nail polish, hair spray, shampoo, deodorants, and fragrances (look for “parabens” on the label), and even plastic toys.
In addition to following a healthy lifestyle, thermography can help in the early detection of inflammation leading to cancer.
What is Thermography?
Thermography has been around almost 20 years. Also known as thermal imaging, it is an alternative method of screening for breast cancer that is completely safe, non-invasive, does not subject the breast to harmful radiation and doesn’t hurt at all!
One of the problems associated with mammography, ultrasound, MRI, and other imaging tools is that they rely on finding a tumor that already exists. They cannot detect pre-cancerous changes in the breast.
Thermography works quite differently. It shows vascular changes in the breast, detects blood flow, inflammation and symmetrical changes. Temperature changes in the breast can be an early indicator of the possible development of a cancerous tumor, as tumors increase circulation in the area where they are located.
Thermography infrared cameras produce high-resolution images of your body’s temperature variations. By detecting tiny variations in blood vessel activity, thermal imaging may show a pre-cancerous state or the presence of an early tumor that is not yet large enough to be detected by physical examination, mammography, or other types of imaging.
Women who are on hormone replacement therapy, are nursing or who have fibrocystic, large, dense, or enhanced breasts are able to get accurate readings with thermography.
The 7 Best Reasons for Using Thermography
It doesn’t hurt!
It is non-invasive, no squishing or damaging of breast tissue;
The breast is not subjected to ionizing radiation every single year;
Thermal imaging doesn’t cause cancer whereas mammography can;
It takes 15 minutes;
It is safe for pregnant women;
Thermal imaging has the ability to detect a tumor developing when it is only the size of a pin head, some 3-5 years before a mammogram can see it.
Pricing - typically breast scans run about $160-$180 (currently they are not covered under insurance). Half and full body scans are also available, as well as head and neck. AND, men can get these done too for early detection of cancers.
What To Expect When You Get Thermography
This process may vary from place to place, but this is the routine to expect.
You start by sitting in a private, temperature-controlled room to allow your body to cool down.
For a breast thermogram, you will disrobe to the waist and be positioned (either standing or sitting) in front of a thermal imaging camera. The technician will take digital pictures. You may be asked to plunge your hand into cold water to help detect circulation changes.
The images will be read by a certified clinical thermographer and you will be mailed the results shortly thereafter. This can be used to help you and Dr. Klug determine any next steps.
Women who are at high risk for breast cancer should follow their doctors recommendations. Otherwise, we suggest you choose thermography if you can afford it. If you choose to continue mammograms, they should be done every two years at most. Another option is to rotate getting thermography and mammography. Our recommendation is to do one or the other every two years. And avoid 3D Tomosynthesis if given this option as radiation exposure rates are even higher with this than a standard mammogram.
If you are interested in thermography, please contact our office to find out who we recommend.