Updated: April 6th, 2015
Adding mammogram or not? Now, I’m not sure.
Why I changed my mind and had a 3D mammogram last year:
Last year I spoke to a nurse at my imaging center and told her I stopped doing mammograms because I didn’t want repeated radiation (beyond what we all get day to day (See this link to summarize the increasing confusion about whether breast mammography helps or harms women).
The nurse and later the radiologist reassured me that the amount of radiation exposure during the new 3D mammogram (slightly higher than the 2D) is essentially the same as what you get flying from Orlando to LA. (The radiologist warned instead, against repeated Cat-Scans which emit high levels of radiation).
Still, why add the risk to my breast tissue if safer but equally effective breast cancer detection tools are available?
What finally convinced me wasn’t that I stopped worrying about the radiation or the potential risks of breast compression?
- My insurance company forced my hand. Blue Cross/Blue Shield for the first time since I started doing breast MRI (and sonograms, thermogram and doctor exam) said they wouldn’t cover an annual MRI unless I had a mammogram first. No surprise an insurance company once again dictated how I manage my own preventative care.
- I talked to a nurse and my radiologist. The nurse at my imaging center told me mammogram is the only screening tool that can detect the tiniest micro calcifications (sometimes cancerous) and the only screening tool that can detect ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS).
So, will I get a 3D breast mammogram every year?
I might get one every two years and possibly stop altogether when I’m older, on the advice of Dr. Christine Northrup.
I understand this is a calculated gamble.
If I wait two years and screening detects either of the two cancers I mention above this means I will have missed early detection and treatment. However, because a thermogram detects heat changes (cancer gives off heat), I’m betting on a thermogram’s detection benefits (thermography doesn’t detect cancer, it detects changes in the physiology of the breast, e.g. heat, vascularity).
I plan to aggressively appeal to my insurance company to get them to cover an MRI this year on the grounds that:
a) I’ve had abnormal findings (twice)
b) I’m adopted and therefore have no genetic history to calculate that risk factor
c) I don’t want the added radiation exposure
Breast cancer screening is highly individual
Every woman needs to make her breast screening decision based on her history, her individual risk factors and her comfort level with the plusses/minues of each detection tool.
1. Prevention however, should be our first priority. Lifestyle choices, nutrition, exercise, stress management (how we think does indeed impact our health in measurable ways) and targeted supplementation (e.g. vitamin D3).
2. Women should use a multi-modality breast cancer detection approach. Each tool (including the all-important doctor exam) offers advantages and disadvantages. I stopped doing self-breast exam and rely on my doctor’s expertise to feel for unusual lumps.
My earlier post: Why I stopped getting mammograms and did this instead:
Two years ago I stopped getting mammograms. I’m not afraid of mammograms (although placing my breasts between two glass plates like a cheese melt isn’t exactly enjoyable), I don’t bury my head in the sand of health denial. I don’t think I’m invincible.
At this writing I’m 48. That’s 16 years of radiation exposure with a tool research indicates isn’t catching the cancers we want to catch very well and paradoxically, has a high rate of false positives. This uunnecessarily scares women which leads to undue emotional distress and unnecessary pokes, prods and potentially dangerous needle biopsies (more on that in my linked article).
My decision to ditch mammograms came after over two years of research and conversations with my certified breast thermographer.
Ultimately however, I decided to stop getting mammograms after reading advice from a well-known natural health physician, Dr. Joseph Mercola. Dr. Mercola is my natural health go to guru, as is Dr. Christine Northrup. Neither speculate with loose-lipped quackery. Both back their recommendations with long-time credible peer-reviewed research.
It’s never easy to go against the norm of mainstream medicine especially if you’ve had an abnormal finding. Suddenly you panic and your doctor becomes your savior to soothe your frazzled nerves. Whatever they say — is golden. Moreover, who has the emotional energy or time to argue a case for breast cancer screenings that are outside the norm?
Who wants to?
Do it anyway. And here’s why.
It’s time for a radical paradigm shift about how we view breast health.
- First is to focus on
- Second, we really need totreat all breast cancers? Some resolve on their own and to poke and biopsy and compress increases the risk of spreading cells.
- Third, each woman’s screening should be customized to her individual risk factors.
- Fourth, mammograms, based on long term findings, should no longer be considered the gold standard for breast cancer screening.
- Last, breast thermography’s ability to detect physiological changes has improved radically and along WITH MRI/doctor’s exam, offers a highly effective and safe (but of course not bullet-proof approach and the MRI “dye”/contrast carries risk) screening.
“In fact, a study published in 2009 in the Journal of Medical Systems and the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed reported that thermography aided by the latest analytical software sensors is 94.8 percent accurate – or nearly twice as effective as mammography! With more and more recent studies supporting these numbers, it has to make you wonder what the FDA is thinking by refusing to admit the good that it is.” Dr. Joseph Mercola. “The Breast Cancer Breakthrough that’s Making Experts Angry.”
From my article: “Why I’m opting out of mammograms and doing this breast cancer screening instead.”
Image source: Wikimedia Commons