Do you remember when your mother had The Talk with you? I recall receiving The Talk when I was perhaps 11 years old and was furtively handed a booklet that explained all the details. My mom told me comfortingly, “If you have any questions, ask you father.” Being totally clueless (not having had any conversations with girlfriends in these matters), I was thoroughly confused. Ask dad about what? And then I read the book and thought, “Yeah, right, as if I’m going to ask dad about THAT!”
Now there are usually two talks in a woman’s life…one Talk about sex (generally about where babies come from, with no discussion about intimacy or being in a relationship) and another Talk about getting your period. Sometimes these are rolled into one Talk, sometimes they are separate conversations. With sex education in school today, some moms are more than willing to forgo these awkward events, leaving the details to the education curriculum. This is not necessarily a good thing as a true moment of growth and bonding will have passed by, together with a lost opportunity for creating memories of anguish and embarrassment in both mother and daughter (that you can laugh about 40 years later).
But there is another Talk that needs to occur between mother and daughter, and I am now preparing to have this Talk with my daughter. This Talk is about “the girls” and, as I write that, I realize that it is time to stop being cutesy and furtive about matters of importance around female anatomy, so let me re-state that to say that this Talk is about breast health! You see, in Canada, it is recommended that women around age 40 begin screening for breast cancer through the use of regular mammograms. (I am having this Talk several years before that 40-year mark so that may daughter can be informed, think it through, and make her choice.) While I want my daughter to be pro‑active when it comes to breast health, I want to encourage her to have thermograms, NOT mammograms, and here are the reasons why:
- Radiation increases the risk for breast cancer*. An estimated 75% of breast cancer is caused from radiation**. Mammogram radiation is 0.40 mSv (compared to a dental x-ray of 0.10 and body CT 10.0 mSv)**, but this radiation is concentrated on a small area of the body and radiation is accumulative. During one regular mammogram, four x-rays are taken of each breast. A thermogram, on the other hand, has zero radiation.
- Trauma to the breast can cause breast cancer.*** During a mammogram, the breast tissue is compressed in order to get clear pictures. This is painful and may actually promote or spread existing cancer. Thermogram images are taken with a digital infrared camera. There is no compression used and the process is pain-free!
- Mammograms are not effective for dense breasts. Thermography can image dense breasts, fibrocystic breasts and even breasts with implants.
- Mammograms cannot visualize the axillae or upper portion of the breast (50% of all cancers are in this area**). Thermography can image this area and more – throat, thyroid, teeth, or even whole body. (Note: There is a link between oral health and breast health!)
- A tumour must be a certain size before it can be detected by a mammogram. The smallest tumour detectable is about 1 cm which means it has already been growing for 5‑8 years before it can be detected by mammogram. Thermography can detect physiological changes usually many years before any structural change or tumour formation.
- Mammograms have 25% false positive rate: thermograph has 10% false positive rate.
- Mammograms have a 40% rate of cancers missed for women under 50, 20% rate for women over 50. Thermography has 10% missed cancer rate.
Now that I’ve equipped you with some information about thermography, you are ready to have The Talk with your daughter (or perhaps with your mother!) But if one-on-one conversations are too awkward for you, why not get a ticket The Breast Show In Town on May 3, 2015. You owe it to yourself, your daughter and your mother to get informed because breast cancer is preventable!
* British Journal of Radiobiology, “Enhanced biological effectiveness of low energy x‑rays and implications for the UK breast screening programme”, 2006.
** Dr. Alex Mostovoy, “The Difference Between Mammography, Ultrasound and Thermograph”
*** Eur J Cancer Prev., 2002, June 11(3):307-11, Rigby JF, Morris JA, Lavelle J, Stewart M, Gatrell AC. “Can physical trauma cause breast cancer?”
**** http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3178963/ “Oral Health links breast cancer”, Rajiv Saini. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2011 Jul-Sep; 3(3): 468.