October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Whether you are tuned into day time television, reading any magazine or even watching an NFL football game you are no doubt aware that October is Breast Cancer awareness month. Many of us have lost a loved one or witnessed the suffering of a friend to this awful disease. In this month’s newsletter I would like to look at some of the research and the need for us to switch our thinking from looking for a “cure” to preventing the disease. If we are really going to help women and prevent this disease than an examination of the present process and who it is really serving needs to be undertaken. Our current medical model has women doing yearly mammograms to check for the presence of tumors. This month you will be hit with the message that mammograms save lives. Is this true? What do we really know about breast cancer and mammograms?
In the Journal of the National Cancer Institute a study of 145 women were asked questions about breast cancer and mammograms and found the following:
- Women over estimated their probability of dying of breast cancer within 10 years by more than 20-fold.
- Women over estimated the risk reduction of annual screening mammograms more than 100-fold.
- The study concluded,“Women younger than 50 years substantially over-estimate both their breast cancer risk and the effectiveness of screening.” In other words, as a whole our society is misinformed regarding breast cancer and mammograms.
Let’s take a look at the research on the effectiveness of mammograms. In September 2000, a large, long-term Canadian study found that an annual mammogram were no more effective in preventing deaths from breast cancer than periodic physical examinations for women in their 50’s. In this study40,000 women ages 50 to 59 were split into 2 groups. The first group received periodic breast examinations alone and the second group received breast examinations with mammograms. The findings: there were 610 cases of invasive breast cancer and 105 deaths in the women who received only breast examinations, compared with 622 invasive breast cancers and 107 deaths in those who received breast examinations and mammograms. 40,000 participants is no small study, and the results show no difference between the two groups.
Do mammograms do any harm? It has been shown that ionizing radiation mutates cells, and the mechanical pressure on the breast can cause cancerous cells to spread.In 1995, the British medical journal, The Lancet, reported that since mammographic screening was introduced in 1970’s, the incidence of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which represents 12% of all breast cancer cases, had increased by 328% and that 200% of this increase was due to the use of mammography. Since the inception of widespread mammographic screening, the increase for DCIS in women under the age of 40 has risen over 3000%.
We are able to establish that mammograms do not seem to be more effective than exam alone, and there is a growing body of evidence that mammograms actually increase cancer rates. Yet some slow developing tumors are discovered only by the tiny calcifications seen on mammograms. Our present system is inefficient yet it is all we have at this time. We look for a “cure” by telling women to radiate their breasts once a year. A cure is only possible when there is one cause. Cancer has more than one cause. Breast cancer, like all cancers, is a multiple system dysfunction. There are immune imbalances, hormone imbalances, weakened detoxification pathways, toxicities, and various other imbalances that are unique to the individual. These imbalances can be identified years before cancer sets in, and some of these imbalances are modifiable with sound nutrition and lifestyle modifications. In order to identify these imbalances we have to use technologies that measure dysfunction and physiological changes. Testing that can predict disease based on past patterns of dysfunction of those that have fought this battle.
In our office we look at promoting breast health through the use of two different forms of thermography.
Thermography is a non-invasive evaluation of the body with a particular emphasis on the breast. Thermal patterns are analyzed that are associated with vascular changes. Vascular changes are not normal in adults. Vascular changes in the breast are associated with the process of angiogenesis which is new blood vessel formation to feed a tumors growth. Thermography has been shown to detect the precancerous state of breast tissue up to 10 years before breast cancer is identified by other methods. A positive thermographic image represents the highest known risk factor for the future development of breast cancer. It is especially useful for detecting early lesions before they otherwise become clinically evident. These changes could accompany cancer, fibrocystic breast disease, breast injury, infections or vascular disease. No radiation is used by thermography, and there is no pain during the examination.
In a German study, 54 percent of breast cancer patients were correctly diagnosed by history and physical examination. The number rose to 76 percent when mammography was added. However, when thermography was used, the accuracy of diagnosis rose to 92 percent.
We use two forms of thermography because each has different strengths. Digital infrared thermography (DITI) is combined with computer regulated thermography (CRT) to give the most comprehensive thermographic evaluation available. DITI is similar to mammography in that it assesses the present state of the breasts. CRT is a whole body evaluation that gives us clues and patterns that precede the onset of cancer by as much as a decade. This allows us to implement treatment plans based on preventing the disease.
After a mammogram the results are either positive or negative. Thermography often shows a healthy breast scan, but we find other imbalances in the body associated with liver stress, hormone imbalances, or toxicities that need immediate attention. By implementing treatment plans based on these dysfunctional states in the body we are able to restore a higher level of health to the patient. We use the thermography testing on a yearly basis. If we see patterns of thermographic change that look suspicious we immediately order an ultrasound. If after two thermograms and an ultrasound there are still questions about the possibility of cancer then we order a mammogram. We feel that if we can decrease the number of mammograms a woman has in her lifetime we believe that will save lives. Some of our clients do their yearly thermogram 6 months after they have had their yearly mammogram. Holistic medicine is an individualized approach to health. It is not a cookbook approach where everyone follows the same recipe. You need to find a formula that works for you based on your risk factors, family history and lifestyle. Someone with normal mammograms for the last few years with no family history of breast cancer could use the thermogram as a yearly check-up along with a healthy eating plan and lifestyle. Those with a strong family history or those not willing to follow a healthy lifestyle should use the thermogram as an added assessment to yearly mammograms.
There is no one test that can detect 99-100% of all cancers. Therefore, no single test exists that can be used alone as an adequate screening or detection method for breast cancer. It is time to add yearly thermographic evaluation as one component of a more proactive breast health program. It is the best way to shift your mindset to prevention.