Like many other women, I havefibrocystic breasts. This means that it can be difficult to notice changes in the tissue of the breasts because of how fibrous and lumpy (that sounds attractive, doesn’t it?) they always are. Each year at my annual exam my doctor declares that he can’t tell anything from a manual exam on me.
Having talked to many friends including friends who are midwives over the years, I’d heard a lot of stories about how mammograms often have difficulty clearly detecting issues with fibrocystic breasts and how mammograms can lead to unnecessary biopsies on women with fibrocystic breasts. That was something I wanted to avoid, not to mention the stress during the period before the biopsy came back.
So what to do? I decided to hedge my bets on breast thermography. In one short sentence, it’s a heat based image that examines temperature differences in the breast tissue which can detect breast cancer, often before mammograms can. It’s not yet covered by most health insurances, unfortunately, despite being FDA approved. However, given all my other health issues, I decided this was something I was willing to pay for out of pocket because it seems like the best option out there at this time. The initial scan was $185 with the company I used; annual follow-ups are $165. They also have a program for free exams for low income women.
This week I went and did my initial scans. It took 30 minutes, 10 of which were sitting alone and topless in the exam room waiting for my body to adjust to the room temperature. (I declined a medical gown because of my sensitivities to most laundry detergents; the exam itself is done in a fragrance free facility in Austin which works well with my chemical sensitivities.) The female technician then took five images from five angles while I sat on a stool with my hands on my head. It was really no different than getting a photograph taken except for the fact I was topless and it wasn’t a regular camera! Nothing ever touched my skin. There was absolutely no pain. And because I am comfortable with my body and the technician is completely comfortable with women’s breasts, I didn’t even have emotional discomfort from the exam.
After the exam, the technician shared the primary image with me just so I could see what it looked like. The heat difference in my axillary lymph nodes and under my breasts was obvious. Beyond that, I couldn’t tell much! I do think the thermography image took at least 30 pounds off of me compared to a regular camera, though! :) The company will email the results back to me after they are examined by a doctor. I will go back in three months for a follow up to establish my baseline, and then it will be annual after that. It was really an easy and pleasant experience, all things considered!
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance