Monday, March 14, 2011

Had my thermography scan this morning

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.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thermography vs Mammogram

I'm going Monday to a local clinic to have a thermography scan. I'm working on the terminology, this is all pretty new to me!

I've been overdue for a mammogram and have been putting it off, putting it off, and putting it off. Did I say putting it off? Oh, man, do I hate those things. I'm one of the unfortunate few who always gets called back to have a second scan. It's bad enough having them mash your boobs once, but to sit there in the waiting room still wincing from the pain of the first one knowing you're getting ready to do it again is about as much fun as... well, can't think of anything to compare.

I got into a conversation with a friend who works with breast cancer survivors. She convinced me I should get my butt (and breasts) in to get a mammogram. A couple of other girlfriends joined the conversation and we started sharing horror tales about the process. Yes, it's true. If you lay on the ground and have a car roll over your breasts it's good prep for this procedure.

Smashing them in a refrigerator door will also help prepare for the pain. I'm sure you've seen the many cartoons and jokes, just like I have. Problem is, they're not really funny when they're true!

So, the breast cancer friend suggested we try thermography. I'd heard a bit about it, but figured it was probably expensive and that insurance wouldn't cover it. I called and asked and learned that no, most insurances won't cover the scans. There is one that will do it, but you pay extra so it's probably less expensive just to pay for the scan out of pocket.

I'm getting ready to go do some research. I have an appointment Monday morning at Health Concepts in Fayetteville, GA. The cost for the torso scan is $175. Then you're supposed to do a follow up in around 3 months for $150 to establish a baseline. Then it's $150 a year for a scan.

I heard there's a clinic in Peachtree City that also does scans. I'm going to track them down and compare pricing. I'm willing to drive a bit to save some money!

I'm also out doing research on the procedure itself. If they find something I know I'll then need to schedule a mammogram so I can get under my insurance and go the doctor route. Of course, I'm hoping they won't find anything!

I'm going to end this, go do my research and will share more with you later on what I find.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Grab your tissues and prepare to be inspired

This is a video from 1999. It is a timeless example of true love and inspiration.

The young man in the wheelchair being helped in the Iron Man has cerebral palsy, is mute and a quadriplegic. His family was told he'd be a vegetable and to put him away. Instead, his parents (now divorced) and two brothers treated him as a regular member of the family.

When he, Rick, was 15 his Dad pushed him in a 15K race. He wrote on his computer that it made him feel like he wasn't handicapped.

At the time of the video above Rick was 37. His dad, Dick Hoyt, was 59. They were the first tandem couple to ever complete the Ironman Triathlon World Championship. It took them just over 16 hours.

In thinking and reading more about the father-son duo a myriad of positive messages flitted through my mind. Think about what it takes for a Dad, who I understand wasn't a runner prior to their first race, to push through and become strong enough, determined enough, to do this for his son. How can I complain about the petty things in my life when I watch that video and reflect on their lives? How can I whine about the aches and pains I have from walking or running when I'm in perfect health, have healthy children, after reading about this family?

The pair are still running together and have a website,  Reading through the pages on the site it turns out that the duo have now completed six Ironman competitions!

I guarantee you'll need tissues to watch this.


Father-son marathon duo finds a new challenge
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