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Warm Up to Thermograms

By Marilynn Preston

Every woman I know worries about breast cancer, including me. It doesn’t just run in my family; it gallops. My grandmother, mother, sister, niece and way too many more women I know and love have all been diagnosed, so when I tell you I keep abreast of this subject, you’ll know I’m not just punning you.

And here’s what I’ve discovered about the war on breast cancer that has nothing to do with the commercial power of pink: The battle is far from over, and women need to include thermograms as part of their breast health regimen.

What are thermograms? That’s the problem! I’ll bet you’re still not aware of how important thermograms are if you want to discover and prevent cancer in your breasts.

Please don’t wait for your doctor to suggest you get one. Chances are excellent that he, even she, is unaware of this safe and non-invasive screening tool. It’s had lousy PR ever since it was approved by the FDA in 1982. Mainstream doctors and hospitals in the multibillion-dollar breast cancer industry are heavily invested in mammography, not thermography. It’s just not pink enough, which makes me see red.

Breast thermography – using a state-of-the-art digital infrared camera – is safe, effective and involves no radiation or squishing of the breast. It’s better than a mammogram in terms of early detection of growths.

And early detection is everything.

“When treated in its earliest stages, most breast cancer has a cure rate of 95 percent,” says Dr. Kathryn Ater, a primary care physician with a master’s degree in oriental medicine. She gave me my first, second and third thermograms over the last several years.

Ater’s very informative website, thermographynewmexico.com, states her practice’s mission simply: To help women take care of themselves.

“You are the one who decides when and how you’re going to monitor your breast health,” says Ater, who’s been analyzing thermograms for more than 14 years. “Thermography is a tool. It’s a piece of the puzzle that we can offer to help find abnormalities in the breast tissue before abnormal growth begins.”

Mammograms – and I’m not going to get into all the pros and cons that have women so confused – are simply not useful for early detection.

“A cancer has been growing 8 to 10 years before it’s big enough or dense enough to be detected by mammography,” explains Sandra Fields, a certified clinical thermographer with a master’s in nursing and more than 35 years experience in women’s health care.

The science is simple and makes sense to anyone with a breast or a brain: By the time a tumor is the size of a pinhead (after about two years of growing), it requires its own blood supply.

The process of developing that blood supply is called angiogenesis. Thermography is the best technology for detecting angiogenesis because it detects abnormal activity in the breast – increased heat, blood flow and changing vascular patterns. All of these are early indicators that something suspicious is happening in the breast tissue and needs follow-up.

It’s an easy, painless procedure that takes about 30 minutes. In my case, I stood naked from the waist up, turning in different directions while Dr. Kate clicked away, using a state-of-the-art infrared thermal camera.

A few minutes after the imaging ended, I got the results. No waiting, no worrying. Dr. Kate sat down with me and we both looked at the result, worthy of framing, a swirling psychedelic Peter Max-like pattern of red, blue, green and yellow.

“Looks good,” she said. I cheered. She compared the new one with the one from last year. No new vascular supply, no suspicious heat patterns, no new asymmetries.

“Nothing’s really changed,” she said, and we both knew that’s very good news.

The cost of thermograms will vary, but I paid $199 out-of-pocket, and $50 more for Dr. Kate’s careful review of the results. Insurance doesn’t cover it. Sad.

I’m not saying that thermograms can or should replace mammograms. You must decide for yourself. But it’s a credible first line of defense and prevention, and it’s not getting the media attention it merits.


Marilynn Preston is the author of “Energy Express,” America’s longest-running healthy lifestyle column. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.

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