MONITORING YOUR BREAST HEALTH: Which one is better, a mammogram or a thermogram?” That’s what everyone wants to know. It’s a perfectly logical question, one I am asked everywhere I go. But it’s the wrong question. It’s more complex than that. Yes, both tests can produce images of the breasts and both offer the possibility of early breast cancer detection, but other than that, they have nothing in common. They’re different tests, produced in different ways, showing completely different things.
Mammography involves radiation and breast compression. Thermography requires neither. Mammography shows anatomy (structure). Thermography measures subtle temperature changes in the skin associated with underlying pathology. It is a physiological test only. It cannot “see” a cancer. Mammography can detect cancers very early, when they are as small as a few millimeters. Thermography can detect physiologic changes associated with a cancer while it is still at a cellular level — before it becomes visible on a mammogram.
Thermography has other unique abilities as well. It can indicate estrogen dominance, an imbalance in estrogen levels associated with higher breast cancer risk. It can detect lymphatic congestion, also a precursor to disease. The effects of diet can also be clearly seen. Women on a typical Western diet who switch to a healthier, plant-based diet show remarkable improvement in their thermal patterns.
In short, thermography is a way to monitor breast health, not just a way to detect breast disease. Mammography can show you if you have a cancer or not, but other than that it has little purpose. Thermography offers a woman the chance to become aware of worrisome physiological changes before there is a diagnosable cancer — which is when risk-reduction strategies such as diet, exercise, and stress reduction are most effective.
The unique ability to detect changes suspicious of breast cancer before it can be seen on a mammogram is both the promise and the dilemma of thermography. The promise, because every woman wants a better early warning system; the dilemma, because it flies in the face of conventional medical thought. Conventional medicine is based on surgical procedures and pharmaceuticals. It can’t deal with something that is too early to be diagnosed by conventional means because drugs and surgery cannot come into play. This is the realm of “alternative” medicine — which focuses on prevention.
The thermography/mammography debate itself is a microcosm of the debate between alternative and conventional medicine, which explains much of the confusion and controversy surrounding the matter. Thermography is firmly rooted in the alternative world, where the concept of disease prevention through lifestyle change is well-accepted.
As medicine becomes more integrative, much of the debate will disappear. Thermography will become more accepted as paradigms change and perspectives broaden. Thermography doesn’t replace mammography. It is FDA approved as an adjunct to mammography. It adds a much needed piece to the puzzle, providing risk information and possible early warning that mammography cannot. It is not just another way to find disease. It can help you become aware of your breast health.
The above is an excerpt from Dr. Thomas Hudson’s book, Journey to Hope, which focuses on breast cancer prevention through a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Hudson, a diagnostic radiologist specializing in breast imaging.