Thermography: An Alternative to Mammography for Early Breast Cancer Detection?
Women today are generally well educated about the importance of regular breast cancer screening. The National Cancer Institute recommends that women age 40 or older have a mammogram every one to two years. Since breast implants may impede results for cancer detection, women with breast implants are advised to also undergo an MRI every three years. Early cancer detection can save a person’s life and avoid much of the turmoil, expenses, and emotional stress associated with advanced stages of cancer.
What many do not realize is that mammograms do not provide what can be considered early cancer detection. In fact, by the time a cancerous tumor can be detected by a mammogram, it has already been growing in the body for at least eight years. This is why treatment at this stage can be so drastic - involving a mastectomy that can include complete removal of the breast, underlying muscles, and lymph nodes, as well as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy.
"By the time a cancerous tumor can be detected by a mammogram, it has already been growing in the body for at least eight years."
Many social circles, especially those in the holistic community, are raising awareness of what they believe is a better option for early cancer detection: thermography.
While a mammogram can detect anatomical changes in the breast tissue, thermography can detect physiological changes such as increased blood flow or heat. A tumor that has been growing for about two years is only about the size of a pinhead, but it is large enough to develop its own blood supply (a process known as angiogenesis). According to several sources, thermography is the only technology currently in place that can detect such changes.
Although it is not approved as a replacement cancer detection method, thermography has been approved by the FDA as an adjunct diagnostic tool to mammograms since 1982. Over 800 peer-reviewed, large-scale breast thermography studies have been conducted, which have shown thermography to be 90 percent accurate. Thermography has not yet become widely practiced, so it is often difficult to find a provider. Many involved in the mammography vs. thermography debate strive to make people aware that both methods are used for the diagnosis of cancer. It is important to note that these tools do nothing to prevent cancer.
Since most clinicians and researchers believe that many cancers can be prevented or that the risk of some cancers can be decreased, they believe that women should focus primarily on establishing lifestyle habits that will prevent and reduce their risk for cancer.