To Mammogram, or Not to Mammogram? Q&A with Rita Rimmer
Sep 30, 2016 12:16PM
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
In 1985, October was universally designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month––an initiative that continues gaining momentum across the globe even three decades later. Year after year, this crusade garners visibility, solidarity and generosity toward the overarching cause of disease prevention. However, in the background, certain controversial elements abound––most notably, the campaign’s promotion of mammograms as the authority in breast cancer detection.
Given emerging research on the health hazards mammography can present, I spoke with Rita Rimmer, Sarasota-based Certified Clinical Thermographer, to understand the risk factors involved and to substantiate another––more effective and less invasive––screening option which could literally prove life-saving.
Natural Awakenings: In your professional opinion, what are the “pros and cons" surrounding this platform of Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Rita Rimmer: Approximately 30 years ago, it was decided that a breast cancer awareness campaign was needed to tackle the rising number of women developing the disease. This campaign was introduced by the Breast Cancer Society and the chemical-pharmaceutical company Astra-Zeneca. Over the years, it has grown enormously with numerous events happening worldwide throughout October to spread awareness and support those fighting breast cancer.
The campaign does succeed in spreading awareness which has proven itself a positive effort. However, this has also become a multi-million-dollar industry. At most events, the purpose is raising money through sponsorships and donations for breast cancer “research” to discover a “cure.” The exorbitant amounts of money collected is never disclosed; there is no transparency regarding where that money goes; and minimal results have been produced by this so-called research. In fact, the inflated promise of a cure tends to generate false hope.
NA: Are there any potential dangers, risk factors or side-effects associated with receiving a traditional mammogram?
Rimmer: Mammograms, or breast x-rays, can yield numerous side-effects. First, the process involves ionizing radiation which has been found to contain cancerous properties. In addition, compressing the breasts between two metal plates can result in cell or tissue damage, another known cause of cancer.
Also, because mammograms seek out distortions in the breast “anatomy,” their bandwidth is obstructed by breast tissue density which create false-positives or false-negatives, causing unnecessarily invasive procedures or overlooked evidence of cancerous growth. Additional side-effects include soreness, bruising or emotional duress.
Mammogram screenings are called “preventive” testing and offered free-of-charge through most insurance plan. However, once cancer is detected using this method, the disease has already progressed, requiring invasive surgery, harmful radiation treatment or toxic drug therapy.
NA: Can you describe the process of Thermal Imaging and what makes this approach a safer alternative to mammography?
Rimmer: Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging is a study of the breast’s “physiological function.” This modality does not focus on anatomical distortions, as with mammograms, ultrasounds or Breast MRI. Instead, thermal imaging gathers skin-surface temperatures to create an image of thermal patterns. No radiation, breast compression or physical contact is involved, eliminating damage to the breasts and body.
Thermal imaging, or thermography, evaluates breast health by noting risk-factors, like hormonal imbalance and lymphatic activity, which facilitates a conversational to help reverse them. Where cancer is specifically concerned, thermal imaging can detect abnormal inflammatory patterns caused by blood-flow changes that could represent a malignancy. Over time, this technology can also evaluate potential fibrocystic versus malignant patterns. These changes detected can either be subtle or obvious, depending on the cancer’s metabolic stage.
False-negatives might occur with thermal imaging due to metabolic inactivity of the cancer when testing takes place. False-positives might also happen in the case of early changes which have not developed enough for mammogram detection. Thermal Imaging is generally not accepted into mainstream medicine based on lack of insurance coverage, education for physicians and pressure from the radiology industry. However, clinical studies are available on thermal imaging as a screening modality for breast health, but are not widely disseminated.
NA: Which factors generally prompt women to visit your practice, as opposed to choosing a more conventional healthcare route?
Rimmer: There are multiple reasons that women opt for thermal imaging over traditional breast screening options. Most simply don’t trust mammograms and want less radiation in their testing. Those with denser breasts find mammograms both painful and invasive, while others have discovered a cancerous growth after receiving mammogram clearance. In general, these women are looking for safer and more effective detection choices.
NA: How frequently would you advocate receiving a breast exam, and which age bracket should women begin this process?
Rimmer: Women should ideally start a thermal screening regimen around age 20 to establish a baseline. The prevailing misconception is that you must be at least 40 to start screening, but that’s just the case for mammography due to increased radiation risk on younger women. However, all women (and men, for that matter) can benefit from thermal imaging, despite their age.
NA: Are there self-examination methods that women can utilize during the interim between professional screenings?
Rimmer: Self-examination is a valuable tool which all women should learn to perform themselves. In addition, a physician’s breast exam is equally important during regular check-ups. Another simple strategy is observing your breasts in the mirror to search for outward signs of cancer like inverting nipples, nipple discharge, increased redness or changes in size, especially for Inflammatory Breast Cancer which cannot be detected by a mammogram.
NA: Can you recommend some credible resources for those interested in learning more about breast cancer prevention?
Rimmer: Several resources are currently available to educate people on the prevention of this disease. Of course, the internet is invaluable, but often confusing and contradictory. Read books on nutrition, stress-reduction and exercise, or find people in your community who practice whole body health. Some examples might include nutritionists, acupuncturists, holistic physicians and organic food experts.
After undergoing breast cancer treatment, numerous women have told me, “If I knew then what information I know today, my experience could have been different.” Therefore, we must exert a greater effort toward educating ourselves. Most healthcare providers only address the symptoms of disease, rarely equipping us to understand the cause. Breast cancer is mostly a lifestyle disease (less than 5% genetically based) which means we all exhibit an equal risk of developing cancer because we all share this one planet.
Rita Rimmer is a Certified Clinical Thermographer who has been operating Health Imaging for over 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 an active, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.