Over the last few years, there has been in increasing amount of debate over the value of mammograms for cancer screening. Indeed, the American Cancer Society’s recently pushed back the minimum age at which they recommend starting to get an annual mammogram for breast cancer screening. According to doctors and researchers, the risks outweigh the benefits for some patients, especially for younger patients and women with breast conditions that make mammograms particularly ineffective for breast cancer screening.
Therefore, while breast thermography is an excellent alternative to mammography for any woman, but it can be especially valuable for certain patient populations. If you’re one of these patients, you may want to seriously consider choosing thermography as your main breast cancer screening strategy or use it conjunction with mammography. Read on to find out if you fall into one of the categories of patients who stand to gain the most from this innovative tool for breast cancer detection.
Women Who Have Certain Types of Breasts
All medical tests, including mammography, have a certain rate of inaccuracy. Studies show that women who have mammograms have a false positive or false negative result about 80 percent of the time. However, that figure is much higher for women who have:
- Dense breast tissue. There are two types of breast tissue in all breasts: dense breast tissue (which includes milk glands, milk ducts, and supportive tissue), and non-dense breast tissue (which includes fatty tissue). Some women have an unusually high ratio of dense breast tissue to non-dense breast tissue, which can make a mammogram much harder to read. This can become a serious problem, since some studies suggest that women with dense breast tissue may be more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Fibrocystic breasts. Fibrocystic breasts are a normal condition in which the breast develops nodular or glandular breast tissue, which has an unusually lumpy texture. These changes occur as a result of normal hormone fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle. According to some estimates, up to half of women experience fibrocystic breast changes at some point in their lives. However, the changes can make breasts appear dense on the mammogram, which can make it harder to accurately detect and diagnose breast cancer.
- Breast implants. Mammograms use x-ray radiation to visualize breast tissue, but x-rays cannot penetrate silicone or saline breast implants. Therefore, some of the breast tissue is obscured by the breast implants and cannot be viewed on the mammogram. As a result, the physician reading the mammogram may not be able to see early signs of breast cancer, or the test may end up producing an inconclusive result.
Women at Certain Life Stages
There are good reasons why the American Cancer Society recently cut back on its recommendations for getting regular mammograms (by limiting the ages for which they suggest women get a yearly mammogram to 45 to 54 years old). Not only can false positives result in unnecessary medical treatment for young women, but mammography also requires exposure to radiation. Radiation can damage cells and increase your risk of developing cancer in the future, especially if you are young.
Nevertheless, if you are a young woman — that is, if you have not yet reached your 45th or even your 40th birthday — you may still want to start getting screened for breast cancer early. This is especially true if you have a family history of breast cancer or if you have had a genetic test indicating that you have a genetic mutation that significantly increases your risk of developing breast cancer at some point in your life. In either of these cases, breast thermography offers an ideal solution. The accuracy rate of breast thermography is 91 percent, as compared to only 80 percent for mammography, so it’s less likely that you will get a false positive and end up getting unnecessary treatment while you’re still young. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about radiation exposure.
The fact that breast thermography is radiation-free also makes it ideal for women who are pregnant. As a pregnant woman, you may want to get a breast cancer screening for any of the following reasons:
- You are at least 40 years old and you want to get an annual screening as part of your regular medical treatment
- You know you have a high risk of breast cancer because of your family history or a genetic test
- You have overcome breast cancer in the past, so you need to be monitored regularly for possible recurrence
With breast thermography, pregnant women can get screened for breast cancer without having to worry about the possibility of exposing the developing baby to radiation.
Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness offers breast thermography services for women who are looking for an adjunct or alternative to mammography. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!