Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Category: Breast health

Iodine is critical

Why Iodine is Critical to Good Health.

Iodine is critical

Iodine is needed for more than the thyroid. The thyroid only holds less than 1% of the body’s iodine store; the skin holds 20%, the breasts hold 5%. Our whole body needs iodine.¹ – Dr. David Brownstein author of “Iodine: Why You Need It. Why You Can’t Live Without It.” 

You probably think of iodine as that red-rust-colored liquid your mom dabbed on your skinned knee. But iodine is so much more than just an anti-bacterial.

Maybe you’ve noticed these salt box disclaimers,  “This salt provides iodine necessary nutrient” or “This salt does not contain iodide, a necessary nutrient.”

Because not only is iodine a necessary nutrient, but more than two billion people worldwide are deficient. (Read here to learn why). 

Iodine is an essential mineral commonly found in seafood. Your body needs it in order to produce thyroid hormones and reverse the effects of a slow metabolism.  Iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones).  It’s critical for fetal brain development, immune support, and endocrine gland functions including the breasts, ovaries, uterus and prostate.

Public health experts report that adding small amounts of iodine back to salt may be one of the simplest and most cost-effective steps to tackle Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) in over 118 countries.

Iodine is also gaining attention for it’s use in cancer prevention, and in some cases, cancer treatment.

“The good thing about iodine is, it has apoptotic properties,” says Dr. David Brownstein, a Board-Certified family physician and Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, MI.  “Meaning it can stop a cancer cell from just continually dividing, dividing, dividing until it kills somebody. Iodine can stop this continuum wherever it catches it and hopefully reverse it, but at least put the brakes on what is happening.”

How to use iodine

How much to use and what form depends.  I strongly advise working with a holistic health practitioner familiar with iodine supplementation.  

You can apply iodine directly to your skin or you can drink iodine mixed with a small amount of filtered water. 

My doctor told me to rub Wellness Resources Iosol Iodine drops directly on my neck because I have a lot of thyroid nodules (I recently had the largest biopsied and thankfully it was benign).

So this is what I do:

I rub one to three (small) drops of iodine on my throat in the morning and one to three before dinner. I used to use more based on my doctor’s recommendation.  Five drops 2x a day plus one I-Throid capsule in the afternoon. But it turned out that amount was too much for me. 

With that high dose sometimes I experienced adrenal crash (felt weak) or had  mild heart racing.  Eight years ago I was diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue. I’m much better now but I have to stay on the low side of iodine dosing. 

So, how much you use is highly individual which is why I strongly recommend working with an integrative/holistic health practitioner. 

Okay but here’s the irony. My doctor put me on the high iodine dose that caused problems. She told me she thought my stronger adrenal glands could take it (They couldn’t). So while I always recommend people work with their health practitioner, ultimately you need to listen to your own body. 

I quickly lost weight with iodine 

Anyway, when I first started using iodine I didn’t notice anything. But a couple weeks later I starting losing weight. I lost a total of about five to seven pounds until I leveled off.  I never weigh myself  but I easily dropped a pant size without changing a thing (I work I out six days a week and eat pretty healthy). 

Wellness Resources Iosol Iodine dosing guide:

“The most commonly used dose of Iosol Iodine is 1 drop of the preparation in a few ounces of water, taken once a day. Each drop has 1.8 mg of iodine or 1200% of the governments recommended daily value. If you would like to get only 100% of the daily value then take 1 tsp of a mixture of 1 drop of Iosol Iodine in 2 ounces of water; however, most people like taking more than this.”

There’s quite a few forms of iodine available. I don’t mean brands, I mean forms. Lugol’s vs iosol vs nascent. 

Wellness Resources claims that iosol iodine offers superior water solubility and therefore superier bioavailability (the body’s ability to absorb and efficiently use a substance).

“There are two sources of iodine in the Iosol formulation. One is from kelp. Iodine in kelp is naturally in the form of potassium iodide. However, potassium iodide is not very soluble in water and may be difficult for your body to easily use. For example, if you get liquid potassium iodide on your clothes it causes a permanent stain of red. If you get Iosol Iodine on your clothes the red will evaporate out in a few minutes or readily come out with washing. In fact, potassium iodide has been shown to congest the thyroid gland when taken in high doses and is how Hashimotos thyroiditis was first discovered (Japanese citizens consuming too many sea vegetables). This is why I don’t use potassium iodide.

During the production of Iosol, iodine is extracted from kelp and made into pure iodine crystals. This is not potassium iodide, rather it is an unbound form of iodine.

The second form of iodine used is ammonium iodide, a form that readily dissolves in water. These two forms of iodine are combined in a proprietary manner in a base of vegetable glycerin.

Ammonium iodide is a combination of the mineral iodine and ammonium (NH4). This is a synthesized compound, not derived from a food source. It has superior bioavailability as the iodine readily disassociates from the ammonium upon exposure to water, producing a free iodide ion exactly what your body would like to use in metabolism. ” Wellness Resource website. 

Whatever form you choose, start low and go slow.  

Want to read my full article on Whole Life Times? 

¹Interview with Dr. David Brownstein: MD. Board certified family physician, integrative practitioner and an expert in thyroid disease, hormones and iodine

Foods naturally high in iodine

Read More

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Why I added mammogram back last year (but won’t this year)

Woman getting mammogram.By Rhoda Baer (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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?

Probably not.

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.

Here’s why.

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 facta 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

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Breast cancer screenings: Too many of the wrong kind. What’s the best option?

breast cancer, breast cancer screening, mammography, thermography, breast cancer screening options IMPORTANT!!

Cancer screenings….The following is an excerpt from an Orlando Sentinel article. The statement may sound radical. It’s not. My thermographer has been saying this to me for two years.  This is the FIRST time I’ve seen this printed in mainstream media. Dr. Mercola, the holistic health guru I follow, has been against mammograms for sometime now.

Studies have also found that, because of the low levels of radiation mammograms emit, having many over a lifetime appears to contribute to breast cancer.”

Opting out of mammograms

As of this year, I’ve opted out of mammograms. Unfortunately, opting out of mammos and opting in for the ideal three-prong screening approach (MRI, doctor exam and breast thermography) is often cost prohibitive and very difficult to get approved by your doctor unless you have risk factors.

Because I’ve had abnormal mammograms and MRI’s in the past (benign, thank God) I can get prescriptions and insurance coverage for breast MRI and ultrasounds. MRI is indeed the most sensitive imaging and will fortunately detect suspicious and unfortunately detect non-suspicious changes.   Two sides of the same coin. 

So, how can you get your insurance carrier to cover an MRI or ultrasound when mammogram is the approved first line breast cancer screening? Ask your doctor if in her physical breast exam or your mammogram she found anything that may necessitate additional screening.  Look at your family history, or in my case, non-history. I’m adopted so I don’t know if breast cancer runs in my family. This however, isn’t reason enough for most insurance carriers to cover second line screening.

Find a doctor who subscribes to Dr. Mercola’s beliefs about breast cancer screenings.   If you have dense breasts this is reason enough to forgo a mammo and go the MRI or ultrasound route.  Mammogram is virtually useless for dense breasts.

I also recommend women get a breast thermogram. Thermography detects heat and vascular (circulatory) changes (cancer gives off heat). If you want one  you’re likely 100% out of pocket unless your doctor sees a reason to order a thermogram. It costs between $200-$400. (*ONLY go to a breast thermographer certified in breast thermography. I cannot stress this enough! )

It’s time for a radical paradigm shift in how we view breast cancer screening.

  1. The first step is PREVENTION: armor your immune system (up your vitamin D3 intake!).
  2. The second step is to AVOID inappropriate screenings and if possible, get an ultrasound or MRI, breast thermogram and doctor exam. All three approaches address different aspects of breast health (functional, structural). Avoid repeated annual mammograms and invasive biopsies when appropriate.

 

Further reading:

My blog: “My very best breast advice after my ‘abnormal finding‘”

 

 

 

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Why I’m opting out of mammograms and opting into THIS breast cancer screening approach.

breast cancer, breast cancer screening, mammography, thermography, breast cancer screening options

 

Anyone who regularly sees my posts knows I advocate for a three-prong breast cancer screening approach:

1. Physical exam by health care practitioner

2. MRI (ultrasound follow up if abnormal findings)

3. Thermogram by a board certified thermographer who specializes in breast health. Go to a  thermographer certified in breast thermography. I see Nelly Yefet in Florida because of her credentials and exam protocol to increase accuracy.

Let me add however, that in some cases it’s advisable to get a mammogram in addition to the above. Each screening tool offers a different diagnostic advantage. 

IF YOU CANNOT GET AN MRI AND THERMOGRAM HOWEVER, YOU SHOULD  AT THE VERY LEAST, GET A MAMMOGRAM. 

So why did I decide to ditch the mammogram after all these years?

My decision came after over two years of research and speaking with holistic-centered health practitioners.

Mammogram is still considered the gold standard for breast screening when in fact it misses 20-40% of cancers, particularly in women with dense breasts.

Your doctor won’t opt for the three prong approach and sadly, neither will your insurance company unless your mammogram or ultrasound findings were abnormal.  Most doctors follow the American Cancer Society’s breast cancer screening recomendation: 

  • Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over
  • Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.

If you ask your doctor to write a script for an MRI or thermogram instead of a mammo, without a family history or prior abnormal findings you’re simply out of luck.

Despite evidence that breast thermography sensitivity and accuracy has improved over 20 years, most doctors still give it a thumbs down.

“In facta 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. Mercola

Health care practitioners who follow Dr. Mercola and Dr. Christine Northrup, leading experts in natural health and integrative women’s health (respectively) who follow the latest in breast health screening and risk suggest the three prong approach doctor exam, MRI and thermogram.

“Of all imaging methods under investigation (digital mammography, ultrasound and MRI), MRI offered by far the highest sensitivity: MRI identified 93% of breast cancers. 37% of cancers were picked up by ultrasound. The lowest sensitivity was achieved by digital mammography, which identified only one-third of breast cancers (33%). These results confirm once more that MRI is essential for surveillance not only of women at high risk, but also for women at moderately increased risk of breast cancer.

Moreover, the results contradict current guidelines according to which mammography is considered indispensable for breast cancer screening. One aim of the EVA trial was to question this concept and to ask whether it is still appropriate to require that MRI should only be used in addition to mammography. The results speak for themselves: If an MRI is available, then the added value of mammography is literally negligible. Researchers conclude that MRI is necessary as well as sufficient for screening young women at elevated risk of breast cancer. Since mammography appears to be unnecessary in women undergoing MRI, its use is no longer justifiable, and current guidelines should be revised to reflect this.” –  “Breast Cancer Screening: MRI Sensitive, No Added Value with Mammography, Study Suggests,” Science News.

Worrisome MRI findings?

I opted out of a mammogram this year based on advice from my certified breast thermographer. Dr. Yefet told me women put their breasts at risk with repeated year after year after year exposure to radiation (yes low levels but still radiation)….

AND if you did have undetected breast cancer you shouldn’t be compressing the breast tissue……

Moreover, mammogram is virtually useless for DENSE breasts. So, I opted for a thermogram and an MRI instead.

Thermography detects heat and vascular changes. Cancer gives off heat.  I had a mammo last year, a thermo 2 years ago by a Board Certified Medical Thermographer who specializes in women’s breast health. The results were normal but because I had some areas of change on the left breast two years prior, my doctor agreed to write a script for an MRI, in lieu of a mammogram.

I honestly wasn’t worried.

I had the test, sat back and forgot about it because my thermographer reassured me with a minor mention we watch the left breast over time. She told me to come back in a year.

And then the gut wrench.

Last week my doctor’s office called and my nurse practitioner (NP) told me the MRI detected a BI-RADS4 “suspicious abnormality” in my RIGHT breast, the side the thermographer said was perfectly clear.

My stomach dropped.

Every month it seems I hear about another woman I know diagnosed with breast cancer. I can name four I know right off the top of my head (who were treated and are doing very, very well). I kicked into auto pilot and asked my nurse practitioner questions. She could tell I was a bit shell-shocked and quickly reassured me that the finding didn’t mean cancer and the spot “wasn’t bright, high signal” which was a good sign.

The radiologist’s written recommendation:

Follow up with an ultra sound then a sonographic biopsy if they could find the area of concern, and an MRI biopsy if they could not find the area of concerned.

In other words, a biopsy no matter what!? 

Panicked and confused I emailed my thermographer the MRI report (and emailed the radiologist the thermography report).

Two different tests. Two different findings.

To summarize: My radiologist saw a “suspicious abnormality” in my RIGHT breast, nothing in the LEFT.  The thermographer saw nothing in the RIGHT breast and is watching an area of low concern in the LEFT.

Two different findings. 

My thermographer emailed me back within an hour and told me not to worry.

What I decided to do

The ultrasound found nothing.

The  area of concern is too small to be detected on ultrasound.  The radiologist told me despite the thermographer’s report, she doesn’t consider thermography a valid or sensitive, enough, screening tool.

I’m not surprised she said this.  Mainstream medicine discounts vast improvement in thermogram breast screening reliability in the past 20 years  in conjunction with an MRI and doctor’s exam. MRI’s sensitivity picks up EVERYTHING, benign or not.

That biopsy is the only way to know what “it” is for sure.

Six month MRI follow up – clean results

I just had my six month thermogram and MRI follow up. No changes (normal) on the thermogram. And the MRI was clean, meaning everything looks good.

Each woman has to make her own informed decision.  Please get several opinions and several screening tests to provide you with detailed mapping of your breasts before jumping into a biopsy.

Fortunately the radiologist agreed with what I wanted to do, which is:

  1. NO mammogram which is virtually USELESS for DENSE breasts
  2. NO biopsy (although she said if I wanted a sure answer. But, See “Does Biopsy Cause Breast Cancer”, below)
  3. MRI in six months see if area is gone, stable or changed
  4. And I decided, a follow-up thermogram in six months.

In addition, I’m doubling my Vitamin D from 5,000mg a day to nearly 10,000mg a day. See: Vitamin D helps prevent breast cancer.  And last but not least, I’m going to try not to worry. Chronic worry is no good.

What women need to know

  1. Prevention. “10 Tips for Breast Health
  2. Know your screening tools. Understand the pros and cons. Each breast screening modality offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. MRI offers the highest sensitivity.  MRI’s offer detailed images using a combination of radio waves and magnetic fields.
  3.  Be prudent with biopsies.  (see below)
  4. Partner with your doctor to get MRI covered. Insurance won’t budge unless you have a family history, abnormal findings or other risk factors. Get what you deserve.  You pay hefty premiums you deserve screening coverage that benefits YOU, not the insurance company. (It’s highly unlikely you’ll get a thermogram covered. But try. They run about $200-$300.)

Does a biopsy increase breast cancer risk?

In some cases, yes. From the website: Breast Cancer ChoicesBiopsy, FAQ:

“In June 2004, the results of the bombshell Hansen study, “Manipulation of The Primary Breast Tumor and The Incidence of Sentinel Node Metastases From Invasive Breast Cancer,” were published in the American Medical Association’s prestigious journal, Archives of Surgery…..

 

….revealing that patients undergoing  fine needle biopsies were 50% more likely to have micrometastases spread to the  sentinel lymph node than those patients having the entire tumor removed for biopsy. The implication of this discovery is that a woman without lymph node involvement,   who would have been staged at a low-level,  now will be staged higher, her disease considered more advanced, and more aggressive treatment might be recommended. Over the years, several researchers have voiced serious reservations about routine needle biopsies, but they were mostly ignored by their colleagues. “

Going against the norm

It’s unsettling to go against the standard of mainstream screening practices, especially if you get an abnormal finding.  Our entire lives we’ve been taught to worship the whitecoats, that doctors know best. They have the expensive training, right?

Well, yes but….

I’ve met many fine physicians over the years, well-intentioned with outstanding credentials but…the advice they give patients depends on their training, experience and MOST importantly, how they view health and wellness.

Are they mainstream, complementary & integrative or alternative?

I vote for complementary & integrative with a strong emphasis on alternative medicine.  The body knows what it needs. With some gentle guidance and lifestyle, nutrition and supplement changes it will get back into balance.

And, you are NOT destined by your GENES!!

Family history isn’t a sentence for breast cancer. Good thing, since I’m adopted and don’t know my family history.

From the American Cancer Society website:

“About 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, resulting directly from gene defects (calledmutations) inherited from a parent. See the section, “Do we know what causes breast cancer?

And please, please, please don’t underestimate the affect our emotional health has on overall well-being. Women, don’t put yourself last. Don’t resent, seethe, stay angry. Ask for help. Insist on help. Let go of doing it “all.”

Let go.

Forgive.

Delegate.

Say no.

Anger turned inward is toxic.

And finally, once you know something that may save lives, you can’t unknow. You have to share. Dr. Yefet, Dr. Mercola and Dr. Northrup and others shared what they’ve learned about breast cancer screening and more importantly, breast cancer prevention.

Now, I’m sharing it with you. Please tell other women. Thank you 🙂

Further reading

Why Mammography is NOT an Effective Breast Cancer Screen – Dr. Mercola

Your Greatest Weapon Against Breast Cancer (not Mammograms) – Dr. Mercola

Fewer Mammograms Making Industry Angry – Dr. Mercola

The Best Breast Test: The Promise of Thermography – Dr. Christine Northrup

Vitamin D and Breast Cancer Prevention. Oprah talks to Dr. Northrup

 “I understand that mammography has been the gold standard for years. Doctors are the most familiar with this test, and many believe that a mammogram is the best test for detecting breast cancer early. But it’s not. Studies show that a thermogram identifies precancerous or cancerous cells earlier, and produces unambiguous results, which cuts down on additional testing–and it doesn’t hurt the body. Isn’t this what women really want?” – Dr. Christine Northrup

 

 

 

 

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Preventing Breast Cancer: Multiple Modality Screening Best Approach

breast cancer, breast cancer screening, mammography, thermography, breast cancer screening options

Breast thermography is accurate, offers early prevention, avoids radiation

 

After reading about some of the negatives of mammography and doing a tremendous amount of research on breast thermography I opted out of getting a mammogram last year (after doing them for 14 years) and had a thermogram with a certified thermographer.

Just recently however, Dr. William Amalu, a chiropractor with 19 years experience in thermal imaging and I had a conversation over the phone after he read an article where I cited him.

Dr. Amalu explained that to prescribe on screening over another is dangerous to the patient.  A mammogram detects 80% of all breast cancers, thermogram 90%.

With 1 in 8 women predicted to develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime and with 10-20% cases missed, the question we have to ask ourselves Dr. Amalu says is:

What number of breast cancer deaths is acceptable?

Given the margin of error with our CURRENT screening guidelines – too many. What number of deaths should be acceptable? NONE. 

“Certain types of cancers, Dr. Amalu writes on his website, “will not be detected (approximately 20%) by mammography for various reasons, but some of these cancers will be discovered by DII (digital infrared imaging – thermography).”

Mammogram is NOT the answer but neither is thermography – by itself.

The ideal, best practices approach to breast cancer screening should be a three prong approach.  In a perfect world this means doctors prescribe the following exams for women:

  1. Physical – Doctor’s exam. Detect observable and structural abnormalities by manual examination.
  2. Functional – Thermogram. Looks at functional, physiological changes. Highly sensitive, detecting 90% of all breast cancers vs mammogram at 80%. Thermography offers the earliest detection, detecting vascular changes, inflammation, and functional abnormalities in the breast caused by the highly dangerous “estrogen dominance,” one of the leading causes behind breast cancer.
  3. Structural – Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Structural imaging examines the anatomic basis of changes caused by disease. Yet, most women don’t have access to this perfect breast screening protocol because the current screening guidelines don’t support this three-pronged approach, unless a woman is high risk, or shows signs of a high risk abnormality in her first line screening.*If and MRI isn’t possible, (most doctors will NOT write a prescription for and MRI even with risk factors), Dr. Nelly Yefet, an IACT (International Academy of Clinical Thermology) Board Certified Medical Thermographer, CTT, specializing in women’s breast health (who did my thermogram),  says try to get an ultrasound in lieu of a mammo.

Best Breast Cancer Screening Approach, For Now

Most doctors are not yet prescribing this three prong approach, or at the very least, the next best protocol, a thermogram as adjunct (in addition to) a mammogram for a woman’s first line breast cancer screening.

“The consensus among health care experts is that no one procedure or method of imaging is solely adequate for breast cancer screening, writes Dr. Amalu. “The false negative and positive rates for currently used examination tests (including Digital Infrared Imaging) are too high for the procedures to be used alone. However, DII may pick up many of the cancers missed by other test.”

Current Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines 

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force revised the long held American Cancer Society’s (ACS) breast cancer screening guidelines, bringing them in line with the European Guidelines which screen women age 50-69 every two years. ACS however, states that “yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.”


After analyzing Norway’s large national database the committee found that breast cancer will sometimes regress and is not always life-threatening. *In response, the task force suggested re-evaluating the use of routine mammography for breast cancer screening.

The dialogue surrounding the new guidelines focused on re-assessing the value of breast self exams, physician breast examinations, and the age and frequency of mammograms.

In the wake of the debate a renewed interest in alternative approaches to breast cancer screening and prevention surfaced, including the use of thermography. Thermography offers advantages over mammography in number of areas, including earlier detection, avoiding r but by itself will not detect 100% of all breast cancers.

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Approved by the FDA in 1982 as an adjunct (done in conjunction with) to mammography and other breast cancer screening tools, proponents of thermography cite large, longitudinal studies to support its use as a highly sensitive, breast cancer detection tool. Advocates say research indicates thermography offers an advantage in early detection over mammography and physician evaluation because it can detect small tumors sooner.

Opponents however, cite high error rates and say thermography can’t pick up deeply imbedded breast tumors, although proponents insist these concerns are based on widespread misinformation as well as a misunderstanding by clinicians of the now highly sophisticated assessment capabilities of thermography.

Breast Thermography Offers Distinct Advantages Over Mammography

Breast thermography uses special infrared-sensitive cameras to digitally record images of the variations in surface temperature of the human breast, recording images of the heat patterns. The recorded images are called thermograms. Its use in cancer screening is based on the concept that cancer gives off more heat than normal tissue.

This technology detects functional changes in the breast tissue before tumors form or before they’re large enough to be detected by other secondary prevention techniques like a clinical breast exam or mammography, say advocates.

“Difficulties in reading mammograms can occur in women who are on hormone replacement, nursing or have fibrocystic, large, dense, or enhanced breasts. These types of breast differences do not cause difficulties in reading digital infrared scans.” Dr. Amalu, Breastthermography.com

Blood vessels, cysts, other benign sources, and metabolic processes such as growing breast tumors all radiate heat from within the breast. A portion of the radiated heat reaches the surface of the breast where it composes a stable thermal pattern.

A breast thermography examination records these thermal patterns and interprets them according to a strict and complex analytical procedure. When analyzed properly by trained individuals, the images disclose various pathological and abnormal processes.

Where a mammogram looks at anatomical changes in the breast and detects masses or lumps in the tissue, a thermogram picks up vascular changes in the breast by detecting blood flow patterns, inflammation and asymmetries. Thermography is used extensively in other countries including Japan, France and Sweden.

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Early Thermography Technology Flawed – Now Highly Accurate 

Dr. Amalu reviewed the history of thermography studies in breast cancer detection in 1995 and concluded in his report that The Breast Cancer Detection and Demonstration Project (BCDDP) formed in the seventies should not have dismissed thermography as a viable breast cancer screening tool.

Many of the studies included in the committee’s review, he writes, suffered from serious methodological errors, unrealistic expectations and flaws, that at the time were the result of infrared technology still in its infancy. Since then, new generations of thermography technology have emerged and the accuracy and sensitivity for breast cancer detection has greatly improved.

“Thermography has the unique ability to “map” the individual thermal fingerprint of a woman’s breasts. Any change in this map over the course of months and years can signal an early indication of possible tumors or other abnormalities. In fact, studies have shown that an abnormal infrared image is the single most important indicator of high risk for developing breast cancer.” Dr. Amalu.

In his review Amalu summarizes findings to support thermography’s use for breast cancer screening:

  • Breast thermography has undergone extensive research since the late 1950’s.
  • Over 800 peer-reviewed studies on breast thermography exist in the index-medicus literature.
  • In this database, well over 300,000 women have been included as study participants.
  • The numbers of participants in many studies are very large — 10K, 37K, 60K, 85K …
  • Some of these studies have followed patients up to 12 years.
  • Strict standardized interpretation protocols have been established for over 20 years.
  • Breast thermography has an average sensitivity and specificity of 90%.
  • An abnormal thermogram is 10 times more significant as a future risk indicator for breast cancer than a first order family history of the disease.
  • A persistent abnormal thermogram caries with it a 22x higher risk of future breast cancer.
  • An abnormal infrared image is the single most important marker of high risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Research has shown that breast thermography significantly augments the long-term survival rates of its recipients.
  • When used as part of a multimodal approach (clinical examination + mammography + thermography) 95% of early stage cancers will be detected.

Dr. Mercola and Others Against Mammography

Dr. Joseph Mercola, a leading natural health advocate strongly opposes mammograms.“Unfortunately mammograms use ionizing radiation at a relatively high dose, which in and of itself can contribute to the development of breast cancer.

Mammograms expose your body to radiation that can be 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray, which we know poses a cancer risk. Mammography also compresses your breasts tightly, which could lead to a dangerous spread of cancerous cells, should they exist,“ he writes in his online article, “Stop! Read This BEFORE You Get that Mammogram” (Mercola.com, June 27,2009).

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The Ideal Breast Cancer Prevention Screening Approach: Multi-Modality

In a 2009 review of thermography for breast cancer detection, researcher DA Kennedy and others recommended using thermography in combination with other modalities to increase screening accuracy.

“No single tool provides excellent predictability; however, a combination that incorporates thermography may boost both sensitivity and specificity. In light of technological advances and maturation of the thermographic industry, additional research is required to confirm the potential of this technology to provide an effective non-invasive, low risk adjunctive tool for the early detection of breast cancer,” write the authors.

The American Cancer Society does not endorse thermography to replace mammography, “No study has ever shown that it is an effective screening tool for finding breast cancer early. It should not be used as a substitute for mammograms.”

“There is a great deal of literature concerning the thermal imaging field in medicine. In fact, it is one of the most studied imaging technologies in the past 20 years. Politics, lack of regulation and misuse of the technology have gone a long way in keeping thermography from the mainstream.”  Dr. William Cockburn, Breastthermography.org

Patients interested in pursuing thermography for breast screening need to be aware of unscrupulous practices warns Dr. Cockburn, a pioneer and long time educator in Medical Thermal Imaging.

Patients interested in pursuing thermography should consult with a licensed practitioner who is certified in thermal imaging through a recognized agency (AAT, AMIT, AAMII, AMIA, IACT, ITS). In addition, the rating system the technologist uses to assess the breast readings vary; some producing a higher than average false positive rate.

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Footnote: My experience with a thermogram, cold but tolerable.  

After my thermography I received via email incredibly detailed images and a written risk assessment report. My results were normal, low risk with some mild “mottling” (areas of vascular changes attributed to years of (synthetic) hormone replacement therapy due to a pituitary disorder diagnosed decades back). I remain on hormone replacement but bioidentical vs. synthetic. 

I plan a one year follow-up with the same practitioner, but NOW, after talking to Dr. Amalu, I will also get a mammogram, UNLESS I can convince my doctor to prescribe an MRI instead (not likely with an “all clear” on my thermo.

This is a Catch 22. If you’re not high risk (how do I know, I’m adopted?), you can’t get an MRI. While I have had breast ultrasounds (they were negative) after an abnormal mammo, I’ve never had an MRI and frankly, these are cost prohibitive in many cases.

So what was my thermogram like?

Similar to the immodesty inherent in the mammogram that flat irons your breasts under “plexiglass” while the tech moves them like putty this way and that, during my thermography standing semi in the buff for about 10 minutes (with a woman practitioner) was mildly awkward.

And admittedly, putting my hand in ice water for a full minute (to lower my body temperature for the reading) was more than a bit unpleasant (a six), but it was fast, it was handled very professionally and I’m glad I did it.

Ultimately my credo is that everyone has to make their own informed health decision, but the key is, make it informed.Until today I was hell bent on ditching the mammo and only going with the thermogram, now? I’ll do both until one day I can opt out of the radiation the mammo gives off and go with the MRI.

Sources

Gautherie M, Gros CM.. “Breast thermography and cancer risk prediction.” Pol Arch Med Wewn March 2010.

Jay, Edward, Thermogram Assessment Services, “Winning the Battle Against Breast Cancer.”

Kennedy DA, Lee T, Seely D. “A comparative review of thermography as a breast cancer screening technique.” Integrative Cancer Therapies,2009 Mar;8(1):9-16.

Plotnikoff G, Carolyn T. ”Emerging controversies in breast imaging: is there a place for thermography?” Minnesota Medicine 2009 Dec;92(12):37-9, 56.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

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