Thermography becomes ever more critical once the limitations of mammograms are more clearly understood. Mammograms and biopsies hold an almost God-like status as the international breast screening standard for breast cancer. Together, they are considered the highest level of preventative breast cancer care. Indeed, to criticise them is to risk vilification from some established quarters. So, I tread carefully but informatively by briefly, 1. describing the imperfect world of mammography to propose 2. Thermograms, together with Ultrasound scans, as a safer alternative going forward.
The Problem with Mammograms
Mammograms are the X-ray of breasts (men and women) with either two or three-dimensional mammogram machines.
Most side effects gradually go away in the weeks or months after treatment. But some side effects can continue or might start some months or years later.
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Cancer Research UK website (2022)
Black Women and Mammograms
Women with dense breast tissue have about a 1.2 times greater risk of developing breast cancer than that of women with average breast density.
Women with extremely dense breast tissue have about twice the risk (Rochman, 2015)
Black women had statistically significantly higher absolute breast area density (40.1cm2 ) than white women (33.1cm2 ).
The size of dense breasts in Black women are also said to be larger (263.1cm3 ) than in white women (181.6cm3 ).
These findings were presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Philadelphia. (Rochman, 2015).
Moredensityequals more radiation equals more breast cancer.
This is not to say race is an independent factor in determining breast density, though breast density might be indirectly associated with race through age, physique, socioeconomic, diet, and genetic and environmental conditions. Limited research means we do not know enough to explain the correlation between breast density, black women and breast cancer.
“race often acts as a surrogate for characteristics that are more prevalent among minority populations, such as poverty and suboptimal nutrition or dietary habits. Because these characteristics are linked to cancer risk, they can also be confounders in studies of cancer disparities.”
In women younger than 45 years, both incidence and mortality from breast cancer are higher in black women than in white women. Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed with an advanced-stage tumor (See Triple Negative Breast Cancer), which is a key factor in their lower survival rate. Even in general terms, stage for stage, survival is lower for black women than white women.
Dense breast tissue absorbs significantly more radiation during mammography than fatty breast tissue.
This occurrence reduces the accuracy of mammography in detecting breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue.
Women with dense breasts (Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System [BI-RADS] category 3 and 4) have a modestly increased risk of breast cancer.
Although categories have been established, the assessment of breast density is subjective and based on the radiologist’s opinion.
The development of genetic testing offers more insights into measuring the extent to which geographical and ancestral background play their part.
Asking young black women to accumulate radiation in their breasts over ten, fifteen, or twenty years increases their risk of breast cancer. It makes clear that we need to find a better, safer, more reliable breast screening test solution.
The Problem with Biopsies
A biopsy process is to remove by needle a piece of the suspected cancer tissue. The tissue is closely examined, and normally, a biopsy follows a mammogram to confirm breast cancer is present.
There is a lack of uniform standards in taking a biopsy which means assessment can be subjective.
75 – 80 per cent of all (racial groups) biopsies yield benign outcomes, i.e. are not found to be cancerous.
According to D. Thompson (J.G. Elmore et al. (JAMA) 3/17/2015), as many as 1 in 4 breast tissue biopsies (25 per cent) tested for cancer may have been incorrectly diagnosed by pathologies taking part in a study to test their skills.
When a needle pierces a suspected tumor mass, it is, in fact, causing an opening for cancer to spread within the breast. Some argue cancer has been later confirmed in the place of the biopsy.
As the needle is pulled out, it can spread the cancer cells further.
Women that get mammograms die of breast cancer more than those that don’t
(The Lancet Oncology, Vol. 17, Issue 12, Dec. 2016)
“When a patient is being offered a mammogram, information should be included on… the radiation output of the equipment used and its significance as a risk factor…”
– A joint report by the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute – (1977) – Breast cancer Detection Demonstration Projects Working Group Report.
Conventional medicine controls the information system, which develops at least in part as indoctrination and disinformation.
Thermograms as a possible solution
Breast thermography offers an alternative form of breast screening. It’s attractive because,
It is non-invasive
Involves no radiation (non-ionizing),
It’s pain-free and,
It is far less expensive than a mammogram machine.
Breast thermograms take images of the breast for early detection of breast cancer. An infrared camera is used to pick up temperature changes in the breast. In effect a heat map of the body is produced. The idea is that tumours formed of rapidly dividing cells (as in the case of cancer), demand a high blood flow so show up as ‘hot spots’.
So, thermograms rely on the principle that chemical and blood vessel activity in both precancerous tissue and the area surrounding, is almost always higher than in the normal functions around the breast.
Breast Thermography is a 15 min non-invasive test.
The chest area must be cooled with an air conditioner for approximately 10-15 minutes during the process.
The room temperature is adjusted to approximately 22 degrees Celsius and darkened during the test.
Dr Eccles says the cameras used can detect temperature differences of 0.05c. ‘The heat variations between the two breasts are compared by computer-assisted technology — far more accurate than the human eye,’ argues Dr Eccles.
Precancerous and cancerous masses are highly metabolic tissues (i.e., they drink a lot of blood, tissue, cells etc.) and they need a large amount supply of nutrients to maintain their growth. To do this, they increase circulation of their cells and create a lot of activity to increase the surface temperature of the breast.
It’s the use of an infrared camera and computer to detect, analyse and produce high-resolution images of these temperature changes. Potential breast tumor can be identified not only prior to their physical materialisation but up to 7- 10 years before it.
‘If you have heat from one breast that’s not coming from another, that flags up that there could be a problem,’ says Dr Nyjon Eccles, a doctor with a special interest in integrated medicine, who performed Gail’s thermogram.
– Thermography is an adjunct (supplementary) test approved in the US by the FDA but is not recognised in the UK by the NHS.
– Thermography works to its potential when combined with an ultrasound scan.
Disadvantages to Thermograms
It’s not widely available in the UK
It’s expensive privately ($/£250 – £500)
It does not diagnose breast cancer but offers an early warning sign
‘If a cancer is slow-growing or deep in the tissue, you might not see enough temperature change coming to the surface,’ he says. ‘But based on the studies — and if it’s done correctly — sensitivity is 90-95 per cent [that is, 90 to 95 per cent of those at risk are identified].’
Thermograms may pick up on hot spots that aren’t anything to worry about.
Advantages to Thermograms
It’s a test of physiology – a test of what’s going on in the breast
It can show inflammation, poor circulation, and chronic physiological conditions
MRI and ultrasound measure the anatomy but that’s only if a lump is present. Thermograms can detect signs in the run-up to those stages.
It’s a quicker procedure. It’s more efficient in terms of seeing an imbalance so why wait for a tumor to form and then go after it?
This is a real test of prevention.
Ultrasound Combined with Thermography
Ultrasound scans measure sound waves by applying a special gel to the breast with a special ‘stick’ moving on top of the gel over the breast. Through the movement across the breast, an image is created on the screen. There are different types of ultrasound to produce different qualities and dimensions of image from 2 to 4 dimensional. The Doppler Ultrasound creates a visual image of the blood flow in potential breast tumors.
Advantages to Ultrasound
Ultrasound imaging is non-invasive.
It’s safe and painless (especially for pregnant women)
Does not rely on radiation
It complements Thermography (and mammograms)
Ultrasounds are more effective (than mammograms) for evaluating breasts with dense breast tissue.
It produces pictures of the inside of the body using sound waves.
Ultrasound can show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs.
They are about 75 – 80 per cent sensitivity.
With thermograms it is up to 92 – 95 per cent sensitive
This means tackling inflammation or early cancer cells is reversable using thermography.
Combined with thermography, improvements can be tracked.
An ultrasound is a quick test with minimal discomfort
Disadvantages to Ultrasound
Ultrasounds are not sufficiently effective for breast screening on their own.
The FDA recognises thermography but only as a supplement to mammograms. Therefore, the combination of thermography / ultrasound is undermined
The UK NHS also does not recognise thermography which again undermines the strength of this important combination.
Because of these challenges such purchases are expensive in the open market ranging between $/£200 – 500.
“Screening breasts ultrasound will find 40 per cent more cancers in women with dense breasts than mammograms will”
– Thomas M. Kolb, MD, Kolb Radiology
The question to ask,
If we have a breast screening alternative in thermography/ultrasound that has up to 95 per cent sensitivity (accuracy), is painless, avoids any radiation exposure, and alerts us to possible precancerous cells years before they have developed, why wouldn’t we choose it?