Thermography: The Missing Link in Breast Cancer Detection

In the June 2006 issue of Marie Claire, an investigative article by Jennifer Friedlin evaluated whether it would be easier to get a mammogram or breast augmentation. The end result for reporter Jennifer Friedlin was that it would take a mere 4 weeks to get breast enlargement surgery and a full 6 months to get a diagnostic mammogram even after calling 3 facilities and indicating that she had felt a lump. During that 6 month wait, over 5 million cosmetic procedures would be performed, but that had little impact on the unwillingness of medical professionals to schedule a mammogram within a reasonable time frame for Jennifer Friedlin. The first plastic surgeon’s office Friedlin called, unaware her inquiry was for research purposes only, actually had a cancellation the following day, which she obviously declined. Friedlin’s investigation clearly illustrates the misguided priorities inherent in our nation’s healthcare system. Addressing these priorities, however, does not necessarily require traditional allopathic procedures and treatments.

The ease and availability of breast augmentation over mammograms might be a startling surprise to many considering the bombardment of pink ribbons at department store cosmetics counters and the increase in breast cancer awareness campaigns over the last decade, but there may have been an easier solution for author Jennifer Friedlin. She could have scheduled a thermogram. Armed with the results of the thermogram in hand, she could have negotiated more easily an emergency appointment for a diagnostic mammogram.

A thermogram is a temperature map made of the body part explored by a thermograph. A thermograph employs an infrared camera to detect temperature variations in your body. Thermography uses the heat radiating from your body as a basis for comparison. Abnormalities are detected because skin temperature changes in response to presence of some disorder. The results do not actually reveal a diagnosis, but recognition that a disease process is present expedites the process of receiving a diagnosis. While thermography is an underutilized and scarcely-offered diagnostic tool, its predecessor, a primitive application of wet mud smeared on the body for the purpose of documenting areas that dried first, dates back to Hippocrates.

Thermography, like many treatments in alternative medicine, is not well known to most individuals. Conventional doctors do not recommend thermograms, your friends and aunts who are breast cancer survivors have likely never had them, and traditional insurance plans typically do not cover their cost. Most practitioners, traditional and alternative alike, do not recommend forgoing yearly mammograms that are recommended beginning at age 40. The choice is ultimately up to the individual patient, but thermograms provide an additional benefit that mammograms do not-there is no age restriction on their use. A female can begin getting a thermogram at any age. Mammograms typically are not effective until age 40 when breast tissue is less dense and lumps will actually be visible.

The ill-placed logic of the medical community is at best baffling and at worst potentially life-threatening. The current recommended course for improving breast cancer detection, aside from breast self exams, is for women to begin having screening mammograms at age 40, the age at which mammograms tend to be more effective at detecting breast masses. A breast lump has to reach a certain minimum size before it is actually picked up on a screening mammogram, but in the interim patients are simply advised to continue yearly screening mammograms which have the potentially life-threatening side effect of actually contributing to any cancerous process in the body due to the radiation used. As with many treatments in allopathic medicine, the cures promised as treatments are actually part of the causes of the very diseases they are intended to treat.

Thermograms, on the other hand, have virtually no side effects. Some medical experts have indicated that it might take 8 to 10 years before cancer is detected on a mammogram. Thermograms, although they do not directly indicate breast masses, demonstrate abnormal changes in the body. This information can be a valuable component to a more well-rounded, holistic approach to health.

Reporter Jennifer Friedlin would have been well advised to schedule a thermogram rather than desperately beg the medical community to schedule a mammogram. It easily would have solved her dilemma rather than being a victim to an indifferent healthcare community. Alternative treatments such as thermograms can serve as a primary form of medical care or a valuable addition to more popular, long-offered conventional treatments.

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