BY BREA BERGEN
Pink. This is the colour that comes to mind when people think about breast cancer. Mammogram. This is the word that may painfully come to mind when they think about being tested.
Mammograms are some of the most commonly known diagnostic tools when it comes to breast cancer, because they are the most frequently used. Mammograms, however, are not always the most accurate.
According to Mary Kubisewsky, clinic director of Thermography Clinic Kitchener Inc., young women have a more difficult time being diagnosed through mammograms because their breasts are more dense while they’re young. She said, “When a breast is dense and you do a mammogram, it comes out looking like two clouds.”
Mammograms are considered a late diagnostic tool, and are better for finding lumps that have already been growing for between eight and 10 years. They are more likely to be successful detecting something right away in women over the age of 50 than in younger women.
“In my case, the mammogram missed my lump,” Kubisewsky said.
They may also make testing in males more difficult, as they have less tissue to compress in order to X-ray. Although breast cancer in men is more rare than in women, it does occur. According to the Canadian Cancer Society’s website, www.cancer.ca, it is estimated that 220 new cases of breast cancer in men will be found in 2015.
According to Shawn Chirrey, senior manager, health promotion and community engagement of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, mammograms are being updated from the traditional machines to digital machines to better test women with denser breasts.
An article written by Dr. Alexander Mostovoy, a board certified clinical thermographer and clinic director of Thermography Clinic Inc. in Toronto, suggests mammograms are outdated. In it, he says, “The first mammography trial began more than 50 years ago and the last trial was conducted in 1991. The benefits that were found during those trials were from another era of breast cancer treatment.” It continued to say the benefits of mammography shown in old trials will most likely not occur if they were to conduct the same trial today.
This is where thermography steps in. Thermography is not the only step toward diagnosis; however, it is an excellent first step. If something is abnormal in a thermogram, the patients will need to take a closer look at their lifestyle and have blood work done before possibly going in for an ultrasound and a mammogram to be fully diagnosed. “Thermography is very early risk assessment,” said Kubisewsky.
Rather than using compression and radiation to X-ray the breasts, as in a mammogram, thermography measures the heat coming off of the skin. It’s based on the blood vessel activity surrounding a cancerous mass being higher than that of one in a healthy breast, making the skin surrounding a mass warmer than the skin of an unaffected breast.
It is a non-invasive procedure, which could provide the knowledge that something is wrong eight to 10 years before something physically appears.