For years, women have been relying on a combination of physical examinations and mammograms for early detection of any issues with their breast health. Mammography is a widely-used imaging technique that uses low-dose amplitude X-rays to examine the breast. Here in the United States, mammography is recommended every two years for women between fifty and seventy-four years of age. Mammography is a screening tool that can ultimately reduce mortality from breast cancer, but it is not without its problems. Women who are nursing, on hormone replacement, or who have fibrocystic, large or enhanced breasts, can sometimes experience difficulty with mammogram readings. For reasons that are unfortunately not yet understood, approximately 20% of cancers can’t be detected by mammography.
Enter Digital Infrared Imaging (or breast thermography), a new detection method at the frontline of early breast cancer detection. Breast thermography is based on the idea that metabolic activity and vascular circulation is higher around a developing breast cancer than it is in normal breast tissue. This method uses ultra-sensitive infrared cameras and computers to produce high-resolution images of any irregularities in temperature in the breast area. Mammography, ultrasound, MRIs and other structural imaging tools rely on the detection of a physical tumor. Thermography detects heat and other metabolic changes associated with a tumor’s genesis and growth. Because of its extreme sophistication, infrared imaging can detect temperature variations that could suggest a pre-cancerous state of the breast that is not large enough to be detected by other structural imaging methods.
Now, I’m not suggesting that breast thermography is better than a mammogram, nor that you should replace your favorite breast detection method with it. However, the absolute prevention of breast cancer is not a reality for us, yet. Until it is (and I have faith that it will be!) we have to be proactive and fearless about empowering ourselves with a variety of ways to detect irregularities in our breast health.
I’ve recently come across another way to assist with your breast health, and it’s something you can do on a daily basis. It even has a fun name: Phluffing! Developed by Breast Massage Specialist and Advocate, Cheryl Chapman, Phluffing stands for Personal Hand Lymphatic Undulating Flow Facilitation. It consists of exercises you can do two minutes a day, twice a day to move the all important lymph fluid which has no pump of its own. I’ve been doing the exercises religiously myself, and I’m so enthusiastic about the improvement in my overall well being that I’ve put together a video for you. You can watch it here.
That’s all for now! You’ll be hearing more from me as we head into one of my very favorite times of the year, the holidays. Talk to you soon!
Digital Imagery Infrared Screen image used courtesy of Yohei Yamashita through Creative Commons. "The Happy Breast Book" is by Cheryl Chapman. Available here.