Have you ever wondered if there is alternative to the mammogram? Most of my patients have. So toady we are taking my wife in to OC breast wellness in fountain valley to get a test done that for some people they may choose to use it as an alternative to a mammogram.
There are a couple of things Id like to point out that most patient are curious about.
Does a mammogram hurt?
Well… I don’t know for sure since Im not a woman but I can imagine so. I've seen it and had many patients tell me it can be very painful.
Are they accurate?
That is a loaded question. According to some statistics they are 78% accurate in detecting “abnormalities”. What those abnormalities are isn’t very clear. In addition, they are also reported to have a false positive rate of about 50%. Meaning that in 1/2 of all the “positive" breast cancer mammograms that are run, 50% of those turn out to be wrong.
Talk about scarring the be-jesus out of you.
Do they cause cancer.
This is another loaded question. According to some unmentionable government agencies and mammogram official sites they do not cause cancer. Or I should say, they say the amount is insignificant”
Here are a couple of facts to consider. In order to take an x-ray image of the breast tissue, which is soft. The setting of the X-ray machine, specifically the mAs and KVP have to be adjusted so that more of the radiation is absorbed by the soft tissue in order to get an image.
The breasts are a more sensitive area than most other areas.
Now Im not going to say mammograms cause breast cancer because that might get me into trouble. But I will say that we do know x-rays cause cancer.
According to some statistics I have read by other doctors and laypeople, they estimate that mammograms may increase your risk of cancer 1% each year. So over 15 years thats 15%.
One last thing to consider. Mammograms have been the standard of care for screenings since 1960 and were last updated in 1980. Thats about 40 years ago. Now I will say, with digital X-rays you are most likely getting exposed to slightly lower levels of radiation.
So I will not say there is an alternative to a mammogram because it is the standard of care. But, if you ask my wife she might say something else.
So what is some other test you might choose to do?
That is precisely what OC breast wellness is providing.
They have 2 different procedures that they offer as a Brest exam.
The first is thermography. They use a FLIR camera which is basically a fancy heat seating camera that can look at body temperature and thus circulation and any inflammatory processes going on in the body. This can be used as a great screening tool to assess any potential current or preceding problems that may develop. A lot of alternative doctors will also use this to look at the entire body to see if and where you have inflammation.
The second process that they use is a very high tech form of a palpation (touching) breast exam. They use what is called the Sure touch palpation breast exam. It is reported to be 1000 times more sensitive than your fingers in finding a breast abnormality. You can see the wave form that comes up on the screen. What you want to see is nice gradual waves. Any sharp spikes indicates an abnormality that might need to be investigated.
My personal recommendation is that if you are going to get these done, do both. They do have the option of doing one or the other. But I always say more is better. Ok, not always. But many times.
Our nurse that did the exam for us, I mean my wife, I just filmed. She explained the screening tests to use like this. And this includes home breast self exams, mammograms, thermograms and the sure touch. The screening tests are just to find out if you have a needle in your hay stack and where it is. Like using a metal detector to see if there is something there. It doesnt tell us what it is.
That is where the diagnostic Ultrasounds come in. If any abnormality is found on any of those exams the next step is pretty much always going to be an Ultrasound and/or possibly an MRI.
That usually begs the question. “Why not just start with an Ultrasound?” Because that is like looking for the needle in the haystack. Without the metal detector.
So there you have it. Another tool in your tool box in the fight against breast cancer.
Now go exam your breasts, and do it regularly, the same time every month.
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy.