Laura G Owens ~ Writer. Raw. Real.

Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do, you apologize for the truth. – Benjamin Disrael

Tag: breast screening

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‘”

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

No more mammogram. Breast cancer prevention tips. Safer breast screening methods.

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

I recently did my breast screening. Three-prong approach. No mammogram.

Doctor exam, breast thermography and an ultrasound in two weeks. NO mammogram unless my thermography comes back suspicious and even then, I might opt for an MRI.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think big business is trying to screw us at every turn.  I do think many lack a corporate conscience, that profit trumps full disclosure. There exists a well-oiled machine in the health care world to feed the pockets of the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, often at the expense of patients’ health.  The solution is to stay informed.

There’s an enormous price to be paid for walking lockstep with even the most well-intentioned, likeable, loveable, “I’ve always loved my doctor” medical practitioner. Question. Ask. Get what you pay for. Respect. Professionalism. Competence. Cutting edge. Nothing less.

Conventional OR holistic medicine, know what you’re getting into regarding medications, supplements, herbs, medical procedures and screenings. Research the pros and cons. Natural is not always “safer.”

For traditional medicine check out:

Pub-med for the gold standard of peer-reviewed research

Mayo Clinic

National Institute of Health

Medscape

For alternative and integrative medicine check out:

Dr. Mercola

Dr Oz

Dr. Braverman

Christine Northrup (women’s health)

Women in balance (women’s health)

 

Dr. Mercola writes in his online article  Can You Cut Your Breast Cancer Risk by Skipping Mammograms?   

Analysis of 30 Years of Breast Screening Shows Mammograms Do More Harm than Good

Instead of mammo, he offers a prevention approach below: Before reading however, please note that a three-pronged screening approach is ideal.1. Exam by doctor 2. Structural: MRI (ideally, if not an MRI an ultrasound, if not then mammo, although this is debatable and certainly not annually. 3. Functional: Breast thermography by certified breast thermographer.  (IACT (International Academy of Clinical Thermology) Board Certified Medical Thermographer, CTT, specializing in women’s breast health.)

Dr. Mercola’s Breast Cancer Prevention Protocol

“In the largest review of research into lifestyle and breast cancer, the American Institute of Cancer Research estimated that about 40 percent of US breast cancer cases could be prevented if people made wiser lifestyle choices.6, 7 I believe these estimates are far too low, and it is more likely that 75 percent to 90 percent of breast cancers could be avoided by strictly applying the recommendations below.

  • Avoid sugar, especially fructose. All forms of sugar are detrimental to health in general and promote cancer. Fructose, however, is clearly one of the most harmful and should be avoided as much as possible.
  • Optimize your vitamin D. Vitamin D influences virtually every cell in your body and is one of nature’s most potent cancer fighters. Vitamin D is actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis (cell death). If you have cancer, your vitamin D level should be between 70 and 100 ng/ml. Vitamin D works synergistically with every cancer treatment I’m aware of, with no adverse effects. I suggest you try watching my one-hour free lecture on vitamin D to learn more.

Remember that if you take oral vitamin D3 supplements, you also need to increase your vitamin K2 intake, as vitamin D increases the need for K2 to function properly. See my previous article What You Need to Know About Vitamin K2, D and Calcium for more information. Please consider joining one of GrassrootsHealth’s D*Action’s vitamin D studies to stay on top of your vitamin D performance. For more information, see my previous article How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help You Optimize Your Health.

  • Get plenty of natural vitamin A. There is evidence that vitamin A also plays a role in helping prevent breast cancer.8 It’s best to obtain it from vitamin A-rich foods, rather than a supplement. Your best sources are organic egg yolks,9 raw butter, raw whole milk, and beef or chicken liver.
  • Lymphatic breast massage can help enhance your body’s natural ability to eliminate cancerous toxins. This can be applied by a licensed therapists, or you can implement self-lymphatic massage. It is also promotes self-nurturance.
  • Avoid charring your meats. Charcoal or flame broiled meat is linked with increased breast cancer risk. Acrylamide—a carcinogen created when starchy foods are baked, roasted or fried—has been found to increase breast cancer risk as well.
  • Avoid unfermented soy productsUnfermented soy is high in plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavones. In some studies, soy appears to work in concert with human estrogen to increase breast cell proliferation, which increases the chances for mutations and cancerous cells.
  • Improve your insulin receptor sensitivity. The best way to do this is by avoiding sugar and grains and making sure you are exercising, especially with Peak Fitness.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. This will come naturally when you begin eating right for your nutritional type and exercising. It’s important to lose excess body fat because fat produces estrogen.
  • Drink a half to whole quart of organic green vegetable juice daily. Please review my juicing instructions for more detailed information.
  • Get plenty of high quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. Omega-3 deficiency is a common underlying factor for cancer.
  • Curcumin. This is the active ingredient in turmeric and in high concentrations can be very useful adjunct in the treatment of breast cancer. It shows immense therapeutic potential in preventing breast cancer metastasis.10 It’s important to know that curcumin is generally not absorbed that well, so I’ve provided several absorption tips here.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, or at least limit your alcoholic drinks to one per day.
  • Breastfeed exclusively for up to six months. Research shows breastfeeding can reduce your breast cancer risk.
  • Avoid wearing underwire bras. There is a good deal of data that metal underwire bras can heighten your breast cancer risk.
  • Avoid electromagnetic fields as much as possible. Even electric blankets can increase your cancer risk.
  • Avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapy. Breast cancer is an estrogen-related cancer, and according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer rates for women dropped in tandem with decreased use of hormone replacement therapy. (There are similar risks for younger women who use oral contraceptives. Birth control pills, which are also comprised of synthetic hormones, have been linked to cervical and breast cancers.)

If you are experiencing excessive menopausal symptoms, you may want to consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy instead, which uses hormones that are molecularly identical to the ones your body produces and do not wreak havoc on your system. This is a much safer alternative.

  • Avoid BPA, phthalates and other xenoestrogens. These are estrogen-like compounds that have been linked to increased breast cancer risk
  • Make sure you’re not iodine deficient, as there’s compelling evidence linking iodine deficiency with breast cancer. Dr. David Brownstein,11 author of the book Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, is a proponent of iodine for breast cancer. It actually has potent anticancer properties and has been shown to cause cell death in breast and thyroid cancer cells.

For more information, I recommend reading Dr. Brownstein’s book. I have been researching iodine for some time ever since I interviewed Dr. Brownstein as I do believe that the bulk of what he states is spot on. However, I am not at all convinced that his dosage recommendations are correct. I believe they are too high.”

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