Sisters, mothers, daughters, spouses, friends: Around 40,000 women a year die from breast cancer. It’s a public health crisis and a social justice issue. Despite decades of awareness campaigns, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the U.S.
As women, we hear it all the time: Get your routine mammogram, and if we do so, we can fix this. We are told fewer women die if they get routine mammograms, and that the answer to the inequities in survival are addressed by expanding access to mammograms; sadly, the facts tell a different story.
In October of 2016, a study released in the New England Journal of Medicine, brought about some compelling evidence that for a majority of asymptomatic women (in other words, women who show no signs of the disease) at average risk of breast cancer, the harm of getting a mammogram may outweigh the benefits.
Researchers compared the proportion of small <2cm vs large +> 2cm tumors that were detected after the introduction of mammography screening. They focused on the size of the tumor, which is an important part of determining at what stage the cancer is. In doing this, they tested a theory that ‘if mammography screening is able to catch more small cancers, there should be a reduction in the number of large tumors diagnosed’. The underlying assumption was if there are fewer large tumors, there would consequently be a reduction in deaths from breast cancer.
However, what they found was that more small breast cancer tumors were detected after the onset of routine mammography screening, but the number of larger tumors did not go down proportionately. The researchers calculated that 132 out of the 162 tumors detected per 100,000 women were small cancers that were not likely to grow large enough to cause symptoms or death.
What that is saying is this: 4 out of 5 (81%) of the tumors actually represented overdiagnosis, or a diagnosis of breast cancer that would never cause symptoms or lead to death.
Accordingly, large tumors that lead to death grow so fast that they are often already intrusive before screening picks them up. That is why, at ThermApproach, we believe you should schedule your annual screening appointment. With thermal imaging, which captures heat signatures of your breasts, the results can then be forwarded to your physician and they can determine any course of action if truly necessary.
Proponents of screening mammography have contended that the increase instead reflects genuine disease and that overdiagnosis has been greatly exaggerated. Those who postulate such substantial increases in underlying incidence, however, must explain why the increase coincides temporally with the introduction of screening, why the incidence of the most aggressive form of the disease — metastatic breast cancer — remains essentially unchanged, and why overdiagnosis is also evident in analyses that are based on a single point in time.
We previously discussed the review from the Swiss Medical Board in relationship to overdiagnosis. If you didn’t get a chance to read that, we recommend you do. The findings are startling.
Overall, mammograms are screening tool that physicians use. Thermal imaging provided by ThermApproach is also a tool used to determine the health of your breasts.
At ThermAppoach, we utilize sophisticated infrared technology and innovative computer software to capture the images in the form of an infrared thermogram, or heat picture. All reports are interpreted by medical doctors that are Board Certified in Thermology.
Before you can feel it, thermal imaging can see it. Please call our office to schedule your screening today.
 “Breast-Cancer Tumor Size, Overdiagnosis, and Mammography Screening Effectiveness | NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, Oxford University Press, 13 Oct. 2016, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1600249.