A Boob-Related Post

This post is going to talk a little bit about boobs. But not in a sexy way, so unless you have boobs or are very close to someone with boobs, this probably won’t interest you.

I have a lot of issues with mammograms. The first one being that I personally know four women who’ve had false negative mammogram results. They only found out that the results were false by a fluke. The false negative rate of mammography is around 25%.  That’s a lot of missed tumours. By the time a mammogram can detect a tumour, it has been growing in the breast for years – often up to 10 years.

My other issues with mammograms are that they’re invasive, humiliating and very painful. And then there’s that whole radiation thing.

I hate them with a passion.  I’d rather have root canal surgery.

So I’ve been looking around for viable alternatives to this chamber of horrors torture.

There are blood tests that can detect very small changes in concentrations of proteins in the blood.  Some of the proteins are specific for breast tissue and can identify even the earliest stages of breast cancer with a 95% accuracy rate.

There’s the DR-70 blood test that screens for 13 different cancers at the same time. It is highly specific and catches cancer long before you would suspect anything was amiss. It costs about $100 and can detect cancers in of the lung, colon, breast, stomach, liver, rectum, ovary, cervix, esophagus, thyroid, pancreas, and trophoblast and malignant lymphoma.  It’s available in many countries including the US and Canada.

And there’s medical thermography – digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI). This screening method shows the function, physiology and metabolism of breast tissue. It gives a picture of the functional activity in breast tissue.

Medical DITI has been used extensively in human medicine in the USA, Europe and Asia for the past 20 years.

Abnormal cells are hotter than normal cells. A digital infrared imaging scan shows the heat difference between normal breast tissue and problem/hot areas. The scan has a 90% accuracy rate in indicating the presence or absence of disease.

So how does this screening work?

You go to the clinic, undress to the waist and wait until your breasts chill out to the room temperature. Then you go and stand in front of the digital infrared camera where they take 3 pictures – front, right and left.

Then you have to put your hands in cool water for a minute to challenge your blood vessels. Normal ones get cooler while abnormal ones stay warm. Three more pictures are taken.

The scan includes the entire chest, breast and armpit area. It works equally well for any age and breast type. It’s risk-free and totally hands-and-torture-device-free. And, abnormalities can be detected long before a mammogram will show them.

You get a report by mail. The criteria for thermography classifications were established in the 1970s at the Pasteur Centre in France and are known as the Marseille System. They report on a scale from TH-1 (normal) to TH-5 (very abnormal). With a TH-5 result you and your doctor will probably consider on a biopsy at this point.

So, I don’t know. I think all these options are worth looking into, don’t you?  You do have to pay for the DIDI testing. In Ottawa the DITI costs $250, but I’d gladly fork that over to have accurate results and never have to do a mammogram again.

Apparently, it’s also good for other types of abnormal cell function in other areas of your body.

I have some more research before I make up my mind. So, if anyone out there has ever had screening done by the blood test method or the DITI method, or knows anything more about it, I’d love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, check out Medical Thermography International Inc. for more information and clinics near you.

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27 responses to “A Boob-Related Post

  1. I too find mammograms awful, probably because I’m rather – um – petite on top. I don’t know any women who enjoy them, though, larger- or smaller-breasted. But I am rather obsessive about getting one every year. I know a number of women whose cancers were found through mammograms, and some who found their own lumps. I don’t know anybody who’s had a false negative, so I can’t really comment on that. But I also didn’t know that there were any alternatives to the traditional mammogram. I’m wondering why doctors don’t commonly present these other options to us, especially if they’re just as good or better than mammograms in detecting cancers. It can’t be the money aspect, can it?

  2. I didn’t know about this cancer screening blood test but it sounds like something that everyone should have at their annual physical. My 2000 mammogram was horrid and I swore I’d never have another but the one this year was not bad at all. The worst part for me is the stress that they will break one of my implants because they do not pay to fix that and it would be expensive. And painful.

  3. Mammograms. Another invasive procedure, another thing you women have to deal with that we men don’t.

    I”m not being facetious. You ladies get the short end of the stick…again. I feel bad for you guys.

    Those blood tests sound promising…

  4. You can be sure that if men had to put their balls in a mammogram machine, some other way would be used or invented.

    I’ve not had the pleasure of a mammogram yet. Not looking forward to it.

  5. I have a tumour marker (cancer screening) blood test every 3 months, but I have no idea if its likely to show breast tumours. I suppose I should check.

    I once took part in a study to see if ultrasound/blood tests could be used as an alternative to mammagrams, but I think the results were not more accurate than mammagrams.

    The actual accuracy of any of these tests varies a lot with the size & location of the tumor. Doctors often have a hard time keeping up with changes in technologies, but another aspect I wonder about is – whose studies are telling us these figures for accuracy etc. Is the 95% rate you quote from the company who produces the test or from the New England Journal of Medicine (or similar)?

    that said, I agree that mammagrams leave a lot to be desired.

  6. Pinklea – It was actually the technologist at my last mammogram who told me about some of the alternatives available. She couldn’t figure out why mammograms were still being done when they had such a high inaccuracy rate and when there was something much less invasive and more accurate available. She reckoned it all had to do with money. In my gut I just think anything that is that nasty can’t be good — which I voiced to her, which prompted her little rant. Doctors have a hard time keeping up with stuff believe it or not. They work 12 -15 hours a day and have no time to be reading journals or finding out about new or complementary treatments/tests. Some of them will admit that freely and are interested to hear this sort of stuff from their patients. Others are happy to stick with the stuff they learned in med school and poo-poo anything new.

    Geewits – Ya, if a test like this exists and works and I don’t know why it isn’t being done as a matter of routine. Could it be that $100 price tag? I’ve had 2 mammograms and they were both horrid. I’m not having another one if I can possibly help it. I’m going to do some serious research into the alternatives.

    Friar – Thanks guy. We do have to put up with a lot of crap, but I don’t think you need to feel too sorry for us. Overall I’d still much rather be a girl — of course I’ve never been a guy, so I don’t know what THAT would be like. Most trans-sexuals are male to female though, and they like being girls much better. But then again, they don’t have to put up with most of the yucky parts of being a girl. On the other hand, they’ve gone through (and keep going through) a hell of a lot of even yuckier stuff…

    Sky – Ya, it’s an unimaginable procedure. Thinking about having your boobs squished vertically and then horizontally by a machine is one thing. When you’re actually there, having it done…well, that’s a whole different ball of wax. Of course a lot depends on the size of your ta-tas, how dense they are, how old you are. For some women it’s just awkward and uncomfortable; for others it’s excrutiatingly painful. Let’s hope there’s a viable alternative we can all use!

    Gokalie – That’s interesting. You must have some high risk indicators to have to have the screening so often? From what I read there are several different blood tests of varying degrees of accuracy. The accuracy quotes I gave are from a variety of sources. I’ve linked some of them. Like I said, I have lots more reading to do. The accuracy of the mammogram will vary according to age, breast density and size, time of the month, location of tumour, etc., but the 25% false negative is a general average. The cancer society site says it can be as high as 30% in some situations or even as low as 10% in others. Mainly, of course, is the fact that they’re horrible and I reckon there must be a better way.

  7. There is an old saying that if all you have is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.
    If the hospital, clinic, whatever has paid for a mammogram machine then they need to pay it off by making use of it. There is no real incentive for them to change to a newer procedure till they start to lose business because of the old technology.
    I don’t know if the new ways are cheaper but I have heard an awful lot of women complain about the squishing they go through and the medical community keeps right on saying they should do so regularly.
    I sometimes wonder if it might not be for profit rather than for health.

  8. I think I’m missing something … I’ve had two mammograms — why are they “invasive”? I also didn’t find them humiliating (it was a female technician both times and I thought the whole experience was handled sensitively) nor painful (not comfortable sure, but certainly not painful). I’d rather have a mammogram over a root canal any day!

    As for their effectiveness, that’s a whole other story. This information is sooooo valuable! I really want to know more about this blood test. I’ll fork over the $$ if I have to for reliable results.

    Thanks for this post XUP! Please continue to share your research with us on this one … Julie

  9. I found a lump in my breast about four months ago and my doctor sent me for my first mammogram ever. I was a little leery as all I have heard of mammograms are like what you posted above.
    It was a walk in the park. The technician made an awkward procedure very human and non-threatening, and it didn’t even approach discomfort, let alone pain, even though I had her keep cranking passed the point where she would have usually stopped.
    The lump turned out to be a fibroadenoma, harmless, and I felt good about the whole chain of process, from doctor’s office to mammogram to ultrasound.
    You do raise interesting questions about the effectiveness of the test versus other methods, though. It certainly bears looking into. Thank you for the information.

  10. I agree that something better should be invented and made available. I have never heard of the blood temperature thing – very interesting. When they discovered my lump on the mammogram, they then did further diagnostics: first an ultrasound (which also hurt but not like the mammogram), then the biopsy (you get a local anesthetic for that), then the MRI. No one felt the lump until they saw where it was in the mammogram.

    On my third annual mammogram (2 years ago), I really got beat up and had to take ibuprofen for two days after. It was so bad that I told my GP at my next annual medical that I didn’t want to have a mammogram that year. She sent me to the Breast Health Screening Clinic and so I went because it was different and wouldn’t have that horrible technician. That’s when they found the lump. I just went (2 weeks ago) and had my first post-cancer mammogram and had to go back to the Riverside (where I got beat up 2 years ago) and it was nasty (I think the squishing was extra painful because of the treatments of last year) but at least I had a more sympathetic technician. But I agree – let’s invent something better than the mammogram! But until we do, go get screened somehow.

  11. Jazz- I’m sure there’s more out there to be had. I’m going to keep looking and asking some questions.

    Bandobras – Well, the mammogram keeps getting pushed as the last word in breast cancer detection, though I reckon until something is100% effective it shouldn’t be the last word.

    Julie – Not invasive as in cutting you open, but invasive as in an assault on your body. You’re fortunate you had a good technician and a good experience. Not every woman experiences pain — it depends on the size of your breasts, your breast density, your age, the time of month and in some part on the technician doing the procedure. The first time I had one they had me sit in a little room with 2 doors and told me to take my top off. They didn’t give me a gown or anything and I sat there for half an hour while all sorts of people wandered through the little cubicle with me sitting there freezing and half naked. The second time I went somewhere else and I got a gown but I was out in a public waiting area with all my clothes on my lap waiting. And waiting. Obviously, not everyone has the same experiences. And by all means do some research on this and share what you learn, too.

    Susan – You must have very undense breasts if you didn’t even experience discomfort. I have a pretty high pain threshold and have sailed through stuff like childbirth without finding it too painful, but this mammogram thing was brutal. If you do some research on any of this, please let me know what you find out.

    Julia – Yes, screening is important — for all sorts of things. After a certain age they start sending you for a million different tests. They can figure out almost anything with blood tests, so why not this? Or if not a blood test then some other less unpleasant, less inaccurate device?

  12. XUP – yuck! your experience does sound humiliating. I was lucky enough to go to the Ottawa clinic that is exclusively for mammograms. Very private, discreet and sensitive service.

  13. I understand all of your points and agree with most of them; however, in what world is sitting stripped in a sub-zero doctors office, cooling down your breasts, followed by immersing your hands in cool water torture??????

    I wear a winter coat to my doctor’s office in July.

  14. Make that: followed by immersing your hands in cool water NOT torture?????

    Eeee Gads! Will I never learn to proof read these things before I hit submit?

  15. My good friend works for a breast surgeon. Boy does she see some interesting catalogs for her boss to peruse.

    She previously worked at a breast cancer clinic and has talked about some of these alternatives. I know there are researchers looking into safer and more feasible alternatives to mammograms. Some recently published article I could not find in a hurry recommends that women have them less often – but the caveat to that is not having a record of change in tissue over time.

    I know researchers and breast experts have pretty much turned away from promoting self-breast examines.

    Also I have heard about how uncomfortable the mammogram is for women of smaller bust and even height. I do not know about people trying to perfect that, I hope they are trying!

  16. I quit going to the GYN because the nurse kept hassling me about getting a mammogram. I kept saying I didn’t want the radiation. The look. She sooo believes in the mammogram. Thanks for all the alternatives!! I hate mammograms.

    If you take an iodine supplement it helps the breast tissue to not form lumps and bumps and swollen ducts in that second half of the cycle.

  17. To me, mammograms are no big deal at all. I have small breasts and the test still doesn’t hurt. I consider it considerably less invasive than a pap test, which is a regular and accepted part of most women’s lives. Mammograms do have false negatives and I’d be pleased to have additional testing but, with a 25% lifetime risk of breast cancer, I’ll take all the tests I can get. Including the one that catches most breast cancers – monthly self-examination.

  18. This is such a great post. Even if it’s not about boobs in a “woo hoo! Boobs!” way. Meanwhile, I always learn so much here. Anything you can offer about balls would be greatly appreciated.

  19. I have to admit I know very little about the actual procedures involved in breast cancer screening. It won’t be long before I’ll be taking part in them, however, and the more I know now, the better.

    I’m not opposed to the mammogram procedure (says the person who’s never had one) but if there is a less uncomfortable, more accurate way to check for such a common cancer, I’m all for it. I wonder how much of the breast cancer research money raised every year goes toward new the discovery of new testing methods? With a 25% false negative rate of the most common screening tool, I would hope a great deal. After all, early detection is a tricky thing at the moment, and along with prevention, could be the key to beating this killer once and for all.

  20. Not a girl but guys get the nasty prostate check (bend over and cough while I stick my finger….nevermind).

    I do have a lot of sympathy for you. I had a sore testicle once and had one of my boys put into basically the same machine you gals get. Whoo hoo! So much fun! It hurt so much I almost vomitted in the room.

    But the best part was the 70 year old doctor who fondled me trying to see what the problem was. By the end I was all for chopping the guy off.

    Turns out it was a scar tissue from ……(edited for content)

    Anyway, new less invasive tests have got to come along. 15 years ago we were doing heart surgery by cutting the chest open and plopping the heart on your belly to fix it. Now its 2 small cuts and out in 2 days.

    Eyeteaguy

  21. Fool – Yes, ha ha. I did actually know this existed, believe it or not.

    Savanvleck – Sub-zero doctor’s offices? Where do you go to the doc?

    Missy – Not to be too conspiracy theory or anything, but mammograms are big money for a lot of people, so I don’t think anyone’s in a hurry to replace them. I know we all have this idea that health care is all about caring for patients in the best possible way, but it’s not. It’s about lots of money. We just have to find out own ways to provide the best care possible for ourselves.

    Mary Lynn – Good to look into things before blindly following the path of least resistance I always say.

    Amy – Doctors and nurses are taught one way and pass that on to their patients. Like I said to Missy, there is a lot of money in health care which means patients get what generates the most revenue and not necessarily what’s best for them. We really should do our own research.

    Catharine – I’m not trying to talk anyone out of having mammograms, for sure. I just recognize that there’s a lot that’s not generally told us about mammograms and breast screening alternatives. You’re lucky you have an easy time of it with the mammos.

    Mayopie – I never expected to see you on a blog-related post! But since you made the effort, I will see what I can find out anything interesting about testicles.

    Maven – From what I’ve read, programs like the Pink Ribbon put most of their money into breast cancer “awareness”. I could go into a whole post about how the Pink Ribbon campaign was started by a pharmaceutical company who produced breast cancer drugs and who also had interests in chemical companies that were often sanctioned for expelling too many carcinogens into the environment, but I won’t. I also won’t mention how that same company also manufactured mammogram machines and how they made a killing on breast cancer. I also don’t want to get into all those companies who’ve jumped on the PINK thing in order to sell products. There are other breast cancer research groups though who are doing work into better screening, etc. You just have to sort them out from the flashier, in your face groups.

    Eyeteaguy – No way? I didn’t know they had testicle squishing machines, too. I wonder if it’s the same machine? And yes, I’m sure there are much better, safer, less invasive tests, procedures, drugs, etc., etc. for everything health-care related. We’re not seeing them for the most part though. Same reason why alternative fuels for cars aren’t in the open market or why the electric car had such a hard time ever getting manufactured or why ever-lasting light bulbs will never be sold.

  22. Thank you, XUP…you are always informative. I look forward to hearing what you decide. P.S. I CRACKED up when I saw your “I hate snow” status.