Mammogram. Just the word strikes fear into the hearts of many women, and the icy feeling is right on par with the icy surfaces and unnatural squishing of tissues that seem much better spent nurturing.
But, with October being the universal month of reminding us to have breast exams and be aware of the danger of associated cancers, we’d need to be hermits to be immune to the pink-ribbon awareness.
I had already had my annual mammogram in August, but when my friend asked if I would like to accompany her on her visit for a thermograph and write an article on it, I was intrigued. To be honest, I wasn’t aware there were any workable alternatives to the hardcore traditional method I, and my family, have always used. I was curious that there was a painless means to do that.
I was even more curious that the results are reported as far more accurate.
My friend is a professional lady in her middle years, who lost her own mom to breast cancer when she was just six and her mom was in her early 30s. There wasn’t much she knew about what grown-up ladies need to know — especially
regarding healthcare — except what she educated herself on.
She sure did her homework on this, let me tell ya.
She chose Therma-Scan, of Birmingham, Mich., a well-established place with more than 40 years of research and dedication to the idea of using heat to detect illness. What preceded that was a history based in ancient times, all the way back to Hippocrates. To determine the presence of disease, mud was used on the skin; trouble brewed in areas where it didn’t dry. The journey has been a fascinating, and most convincing one, for future patients.
I interviewed the Laboratory Director, Dr. Philip Hoekstra III, who told an intriguing story that began with his father and their mutual curiosity with thermography. It wove through decades of military influence, government intervention and gradual glances at health benefits, and landed today, squarely in Birmingham on Woodward.
So, patients don’t need a doctor’s referral to have such a breast foray, but they will need a doctor to receive the results — sent within about one week — and give them a prognosis.
It is a 30-minute appointment. Clients are ushered into a room with an innocent-looking camera that is far less complicated and intimidating than most Graduation Picture Sittings. A technician asks family history questions, zeroing in on any history of cancer or other anomalies. Any symptoms or problems are mentioned at this time, then the technician explains the next steps. Sometimes it also takes two visits to create a person’s temperature baseline, but once that is determined, the results are assured of being very accurate.
My friend was left in privacy and asked to disrobe from the waist up to acclimate herself to the room’s environment for 10 minutes. The idea was to lose any restrictions on her breasts, and to be comfortable in the surroundings.
Then, the technician returned, took three photos of her as she stood on a rubber mat, 4-6 feet from the camera. No fumbling. No squeezing. No unnatural stances as if she was prisoner in a machine. No pain.
Then, her hands were submerged in cool water for about one minute. Dr. Hoekstra says this is done to create a type of baseline, with the hands being the most temperature-sensitive body part, and a good guide as to how the other body parts will reflect temperature, too.
A second set of photos were also shot. Then, my friend dressed and joined me in the lobby.
"It was very calming and there was no pain whatsoever,” she said. “They merely adjusted the camera as necessary and it was over.”
The checkout was even more painless. Although insurances will tend to pay for mammograms, given their 78 percent accuracy rates compared to thermography’s 97 percent one, it sure seems like a better deal to pay for your own testing, which is cheaper to begin with, anyway. Not only that, thermography can detect cancer 8-10 years earlier than traditional methods.
As women age, we become more prone to breast cancers, and the statistics back that up. Dr. Hoekstra further shared a key ring with pebbles the size of tumors that are typically detected. What a thermograph can find is roughly the size of a seed bead; lumps found by traditional mammograms are the size of a grape tomato — and that’s IF they are found.
Also, experts say that the unnatural mammary squish into the traditional machinery can actually spread cancer that is already present but not yet diagnosed.
Which would you trust could be better treated and cured?
This October changed my mind, to be sure.
You may never see October quite the same again. And, neither will your breasts.