Breaking News: Due to risks inherent with mammography, the American Cancer Society now recommends that women start later and have fewer mammograms. This approaches the U.S. Preventive Task Force position supporting biennial screening for women aged 50-74. What are younger women to do?
Be Informed and Be Aware
There are at least nine breast tests, including clinical (palpation) exam, ultrasound, thermogram, MRI, and others. While some tests are more popular than others, each has its own unique attributes, cost, risks and benefits. For instance, clincal exam and mammograms are quite popular. But evidence suggests that there are far too many false positives associated with these tests leading to unnecessary biopsies, especially for younger women, where breast tissue is typically more dense, hindering the accuracy of mammography.
And since up to 25% of breast cancers are Stage 0, many unnecessary mastectomies are being performed on women, some of whom are frightened into surgery, for what is actually pre-cancer, not active cancer. The emotional toll of less than fully-informed decisions can be devastating for women and their loved ones.
Reduce Mammograms and Clinical Exams
This month’s TIME includes an article with a cover page, “Too Much Chemo. Too Much Radiation. And Way Too Many Mastectomies.” Also this month, the American Cancer Society acknowledged the risk of false positives associated with mammography and clinical exams. With that, new guidelines have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, which include:
- Women with average risk should undergo mammography starting at age 45.
- Women aged 45 to 54 should be screened annually.
- Women 55 and older should transition to biennial screening.
- Women should continue screening mammography as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or longer.
- Clinical breast examination is not recommended among average-risk women at any age.
A New Gap in Breast Screening
The new guidelines may leave (younger) women not knowing what to do. JAMA states that “better screening tools are needed” and that “The future of breast cancer screening is likely to entail a more personalized understanding of breast cancer risk, one that incorporates both published risk assessment tools using combinations of known risk factors with newer techniques”
Compounding the matter, many women have fallen victim to the myth that genetics is the biggest risk factor for cancer. If that were true, why has breast cancer incidence increased from 1 in 20 in the 1960s to about 1 in 7 today? Genetics do not change quickly over large populations, let alone in only three generations. Alternatively, it’s more about how we live our lives, the ever increasing amounts of chemicals and toxins in our world, issues around the nutritional value of what we eat, and more. Believing that genetics is at fault means giving up our personal power to change our destiny. Women can wait and see if they get cancer, on a path of detection, or they can proactively learn, manage and monitor their risk factors, claiming the power of prevention.
What this means: our lifestyles create far more gene mutation and cancer than we inherit. If we want to get ahead of cancer, I suggest we focus on prevention, not detection.
Beyond Pink… Beyond Detection
Rather than only follow the massive swell of pink in October, or anticipate the arrival of a mammogram van for an annual exam, I suggest women learn, manage and monitor their risk factors – daily. It’s our best offense.
LEARN & MANAGE YOUR RISK. There are at least 35 dietary, health & lifestyle, environmental, estrogenic and genetic factors that contribute to breast cancer. For years I have professed the importance of women (and men) understanding how these risk factors contribute to cancer in order to have the opportunity to address them – to be proactive and support prevention. I have suggested such education be provided in public schools during the early teenage years. Until such time, Better Breast Health – for Life!™ offers on-line prevention tools and resources free to the public. The Risk Factors Worksheet, launching soon, enables users to identify which risk factors are in their lives so they can focus on them.
MONITOR YOUR RISK. ADJUST ACCORDINGLY. Since 2002, The Thermogram Center, Inc. has provided Risk Assessing Thermal Imaging, an advanced form of thermography with Thermobiological Risk Ratings and Hormonal Grades. Risk ratings provide an objective way for women to monitor the collective effect of all risk factors on each breast. If a number increases, women are typically compelled to action. If a number decreases, women take comfort in evidence that their efforts are working. If you visit thermogramcenter.com, you will see examples of risk that men and women did not previously know they had who then proactively addressed them, re-monitored and saw their risk diminish.
The Thermogram Center, Inc. also provides Self-Care and Preventive Education handouts for men and women to support optimal nourishment, detoxification, oral health and more. The philosophy is that an optimally nourished, detoxified body is at less risk. When women are in need of further evaluation, ultrasounds are available.
Filling the Gap for All Women
We need more than just detection tests for cancer. These tests are after the fact. We need tests that reveal opportunities to reduce risk and personalized education that supports prevention – Preventive Medicine.
Scenario 1: We feel a lump and opt for a mammogram first. It finds a mass that leads to a biopsy which turns out to be benign. We are advised to return for subsequent mammography in 6 months. (Are you aware that the risk associated with radiation exposure over time is accumulative and may cause harm?)
Scenario 2: We feel a lump and opt for 100% safe Risk Assessing Thermal Imaging first. When the exam does not reveal high risk, warranting further evaluation (i.e. ultrasound), we learn that we all get masses and lumps in our breasts (and female organs) from time to time, whether we feel them or not. We learn that the vast majority of these are the result of lymphatic inflammation and congestion, exacerbated by excess hormones, chemicals, dietary factors, stress and more. We learn about their genesis, how they contribute to cancer risk and how to intervene to reduce their occurrence and our overall risk.
Which scenario would you prefer? Scenario 1 is typically without education, understanding, intervention or prevention support. Scenario 2 is empowering, based on the unique educational needs revealed by your own thermal imaging exam.
Inspired Towards Prevention?
Speak out about your desire for increased access to Preventive Medicine, including Advanced Thermography in the form of Risk Assessing Thermal Imaging. Spread the word. Consumer demand impacts service availability and insurance policy.
Visit thermogramcenter.com for Colorado Risk Assessing Thermal Imaging and Preventive Education Services.
For Preventive Education to Learn, Manage and Monitor Your Risk, visit betterbreasthealthforlife.com.