Move over, Mammogram…There’s a More Reliable Breast Cancer Screening on the Scene
Oct 07, 2015 01:16PM
● By Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Since 1985, October has been both nationally and internationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). This annual campaign raises funds for continued medical research, while advocating the importance of yearly breast examinations. Across the globe, men and women bolster the cause by participating in “Races for the Cure,” sporting pink ribbons to signify their support, and donating time, money and manpower to affiliated charities.
Moreover, they dutifully schedule mammogram screenings, as recommended by the American Cancer Society and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. These organizations initially founded BCAM with the goal of promoting mammography as the most reliable tool for early detection. Over the decades, this platform has only intensified, with mammograms now considered the mainstream standard in fighting breast cancer.
However, despite positive strides toward increasing visibility for victims and survivors alike, a lesser-known screening option calls BCAM’s “Get a mammogram!” message into question. Although the medical industry has labeled it “experimental” and FDA-approved only as an adjunctive with mammography, Breast Thermal Imaging, – or breast thermography – a more revealing alternative to mammography, can accurately spot malignant cell indicators years before they would become noticeable as a tumor.
Whereas a conventional mammogram involves x-raying the breast tissue for evidence of tumors, cysts or calcification, breast thermography “is based on detecting physiological changes in the breast which occur long before a physical mass or tumor develops” (The National Business Review). This technology uses infrared cameras to map “temperature patterns of heat emission from the skin’s surface to a depth of about six millimeters.
“The temperature data is then transmitted to a computer and stored as images [hot is illustrated as red, and cold is illustrated as blue]” (The National Business Review). At this point, a thermologist analyzes these heat images for signs of cancerous or precancerous conditions. If the analysis indicates any abnormality, further testing modalities, such as a biopsy, will subsequently be performed.
Mammography cannot penetrate the dense breast tissue in patients under age 40; however, breast thermography is capable of identifying suspicious growths in those as young as 20. “Breast Thermal Imaging is a non-invasive test. It eliminates the risks of [mammogram related] radiation for younger ages and indicates early risk factors for disease development,” explains Rita Rimmer, Certified Clinical Thermographer and owner of the Sarasota-based Health Imaging laboratory.
When utilized in conjunction with self-examination (i.e. probing for lumps or hardened areas by applying pressure in circular motions, from the armpits to the nipple) and wellness-enhancing lifestyle initiatives, breast thermography helps patients, regardless of age bracket, take preventative measures before a suspicious growth develops into a malignant tumor.
Rimmer, a pioneering practitioner of this safe, painless and remarkably effectual technology, has been making early detection both possible and accessible in Southwest Florida since 2000. She notes that many women who visit her practice “have an innate sense that mammograms are harmful to their bodies and generally not effective in detecting active disease.” Therefore, although breast thermography has yet to receive widespread acceptance within conventional medicine, more patients are becoming educated on its benefits.
“Some women come [to Health Imaging] out of curiosity. Some come because they hate the discomfort or radiation dangers associated with mammograms. Some come because they don’t want to depend on mammograms alone. Some come to get another opinion or because they’ve been told they need to have a biopsy. Some are referred by their physician because all other testing is inconclusive.
“Whatever the reason, I salute them! They are taking a step toward a new awareness, not only about other options in detection, but hopefully, about options to proactively prevent disease. They learn about the importance of nutrition, stress management, hormone balancing, wearing bras, self-exams and [taking advantage of] the information available to them. They also gain insights into how they can practice healthier living overall,” continues Rimmer.
Still, several people continue clinging to mainstream medicine’s preferred, if flawed, screening method – mammography – as a result of limited knowledge or even sheer complacency. The test’s annual time table deludes patients into misguidedly assuming they should concern themselves with breast health just once per calendar year. However, that false security could potentially prove fatal.
Rimmer adds, “The message all women hear during the month of October is that having a mammogram is the only protection we have against breast cancer. Can that be? Can we really be so powerless against this insidious disease? Or, are we complacent and gullible, thinking that having a yearly mammogram can save our lives? The answer is ‘yes.’ We’re complacent, gullible and full of fear. Many women walk away from their yearly mammogram, complacent enough to think they don’t need to worry about breast cancer for another year.”
While reassuring in the short-term, Rimmer urges against this narrow mindset, instead encouraging all women – and men, as male breast cancer rates have increased – to become better informed and, therefore, empowered to take active roles in their own well-being. Rather than relying on invasive mammogram screenings once a malignancy has already entered its final stages, then undergoing aggressive treatments like surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, explore other alternatives and learn defensive strategies.
Avoid eating processed, artificial and chemically-engineered ingredients. Incorporate continual vigorous movement into daily routines. Check for any breast irregularities on, at least, a monthly basis. Celebrate the positive, survival-oriented aspects of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but don’t believe the obsolete paradigm that mammography is the sole weapon in your arsenal. Breast thermography could mean the difference between first stage precautionary measures and a late stage double mastectomy. This choice is available for young and older patients alike, with results no less than life-saving.
Rita Rimmer is a Certified Clinical Thermographer who has been operating Health Imaging for 15 years on the Suncoast. Health Imaging is located at 2750 Bahia Vista #109, Sarasota. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., by appointment. For more information or to schedule a screening, call 941-330-9318 or visit HealthyThermalImaging.com.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota-Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer, based in Southwest Florida. Her personal blog, HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com, features practical tips for embracing a fit, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.