I wrote earlier that I was considering having a thermography scan rather than suffering through another mammogram. After I shared my thoughts on it, I went out and researched the subject as I indicated I would (see some of the links at the end of my blog).
I read and read and read and then read some more. I am now a semi-expert on the issue. After all my reading and research I concluded that it's was worth giving it a try. Generally it was considered a viable alternative by some and a good addition to health care by others. I didn't find any that said "NO, HORROR, DO NOT DO THIS".
I checked around, couldn't find any place locally that did it other than Health Concepts in Fayetteville. There was one place listed in Peachtree City, but they didn't have a website. I may be an Internet snob, but if some place doesn't have a website, I'm not going. It looked like they used some kind of mobile service anyway.
I had my appointment this morning at 10 a.m. I had already filled out my paperwork, which they conveniently post on-line so you can print and complete prior to the appointment. Saved me time, saves them paper and toner!
I walked in, handed over my paperwork, sat down and before I got comfortable they were ready for me to take my scan.
It was painless. It was fairly fast given they do six different scans. I didn't have to sit in a room with a whole bunch of other women wearing a little paper top. I wasn't cold. They didn't mash my boobs. The tech explained everything to me prior to starting, then answered questions and volunteered more info as we went through the process.
After it was all said and done, I was able to look at my scans on the computer. They had a huge chart showing the various things to look for and she took time to point out and compare some of my results with those on the info chart. Of course, we didn't get into "gee, that looks bad" or any kind of suggestion regarding the results. She just explained what the various colors meant and things along those lines. I was able to see just how tense I was in the neck area!
I was back in my car in half an hour. Loved the turn around!
Now I wait. I was pleased to learn that they send the scans to Duke to be read by experts. She said it can take a week, but typically they're much faster. She explained what they'd be looking at, how they did it, what they were looking for when they manipulated the scans. I won't bore you with all the details. If they find something I'll get a call. If they don't, I'll get a letter. This is one time when I'm willing to sacrifice a tree to make paper for my letter!
I found it to be a very easy process. It wasn't demeaning or uncomfortable in any way. I would prefer not to have spent the $175 but it was certainly worth it given the alternative.
In three months I'm supposed to go back for another scan. I wasn't real thrilled about that one - it'll be another $150 dollars. However, after learning why they wanted the scan, it made sense. Cancer cells grow fast enough that in a three month period they'll be able to see if there have been any changes. If I have what they think might be a 'hot spot' they'll compare today's scan with the one they take in three months. If it's grown or gotten 'hotter' then I'll be off to see my insurance-covered doctor to get a mammogram.
According to the tech this process can detect many cancers years earlier than a mammogram or self exam. In my reading I learned that mammograms detect roughly 80% of cancers, ultrasounds around 83% and thermography, 90%.
It made sense that thermography might find more cancers. You have to have something big enough to feel to find it with a self-exam. It has to have reached a certain size to be detected in a mammogram. The thermography scan picks it up as it's picking up steam. In my laymen's terms, cancers start changing things around the corrupt cell. It needs nutrients, it's working, it's hot even when it's just beginning to cause trouble.
It's not meant to completely replace having to have a mammogram. Here's a disclaimer that I found typical on most sites I looked at "Disclaimer: Breast thermography offers women information that no other procedure can provide. However, breast thermography is not a replacement for or alternative to mammography or any other form of breast imaging. Breast thermography is meant to be used in addition to mammography and other tests or procedures. Breast thermography and mammography are complementary procedures, one test does not replace the other. All thermography reports are meant to identify thermal emissions that suggest potential risk markers only and do not in any way suggest diagnosis and/or treatment. Studies show that the earliest detection is realized when multiple tests are used together. This multimodal approach includes breast self-examinations, physical breast exams by a doctor, mammography, ultrasound, MRI, thermography, and other tests that may be ordered by your doctor."
Given that mammograms can detect some cancers that thermography scans might not pick up, it's probably not a good idea to eliminate those nasty things completely. I think if I had a history of breast cancer in the family or high risk factors I would probably do both. If I had to do test frequently as some with high risk factors must, then I might opt for thermography the majority of the time to keep from subjecting my body to even tiny amounts of radiation.
So, bottom line for me, in three months I'll go plop down more money for the baseline comparative scan. In a year I'll have another scan. I'm having my regular exam by the doctor in June so she'll do a touch and feel scan that's probably better than the ones I do.
I'm going to look into the ultrasounds, too. Maybe in a year or two, insurance will start to cover more preventative options like thermography and ultrasounds as opposed to mammograms. A girl can dream...
Here are some articles. Read them with the knowledge that many are protecting their bread and butter, and that anything 'new' is suspect by some.