It’s my birthday and my phone is buzzing with notifications of birthday wishes. Then it rings. Well that’s old school. An actual call? How nice! So, of course I answer…”Hello, This is jerk-face health clinic calling to remind you to schedule your mammogram for your old self because now that you’re not 21 anymore, birthdays mean new reasons to go to the doctor to be poked, prodded and smashed.” Ok, that’s not exactly what the recording said but after a few months of these robo-calls on the regular, I got the gist of what they were trying to tell me. That’s why I’m paying someone to take photographs of my boobs. Not the sexy kind. The preventative, for-your-health kind that is also known as thermography.
Why didn’t I schedule the mammogram? Well, there are a few reasons that I’m holding off on this rite of passage. The one most people probably relate to is the U.S. Preventative Task Force updated their recommendations to make mammograms optional for those between the ages of 40-50. Why did they do this? Because they found that screening women in their 40’s had limited benefits and may do more harm than good.
Women in their 40’s have much denser breast tissue, which makes them harder to screen so that decreases the success of the one job the mammogram has. All it does is find cancer. It doesn’t do the best job for the ladies in their 40’s. That means, “almost half of the women who are screened are called back for repeat films or biopsies because their test results look suspicious.” (1) These additional tests and screenings come with risks and stress. That’s why the decision to get a mammogram should be between a woman and her doctor.
Time to Woman Up
Now many will say, “woman up and get your boobs squashed.” Doc would say a mammogram doesn’t do anything to prevent cancer it just identifies it and then he would say get your hormones checked for real prevention. For many women in their 40’s mammograms come with extra radiation, anxiety, false-positive results, over-diagnosis and over-treatment.
Thermography is not a replacement for mammography. Its something totally different. It’s not really photography either. It’s an infrared digital thermal imaging to screen for early changes in the breast. It measures the heat and blood flow patterns in our breasts which apparently can tell you a lot about your health. Thermography doesn’t use radiation and breast density doesn’t impact the results. It sounded a little crazy but at the same time offered a noninvasive and radiation-free addition to my breast monitoring regimen. So, I got in touch with Melissa Huguet from Keep Cool Thermography to see if this would be an option for me. She wrote this article about thinking outside the box for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
It didn’t seem to be complicated and it seemed affordable, so we set up an appointment. I was excited to learn a bit more about my health and at the same time nervous. For real, I am going to have pictures taken of my breasts and I’m not totally certain of how it all works despite all the research. I mean, they aren’t going to try to take a picture of my aura too- are they?
Getting Ready for the Thermography Appointment
Ahead of my appointment, she sent me paperwork to fill out and protocols to read at least 24 hours before my appointment. On the morning of my appointment I was about to step into the shower when I realized I didn’t follow directions, so I ran to my phone in a towel to read the paperwork. Oh shoot…there were some things I wasn’t supposed to do in the 24 hours before my appointment.
I look through the list to see if I’m going to have to call and reschedule because I didn’t follow directions. No sunbathing- check I’m too pasty for that. Also, No chiropractic- phew not in the past 24 hours but I do need an adjustment. No bath- wait does that mean shower? I quickly read through the list and later it says no shower an hour before so a shower this morning must be ok. There is no shaving though and no lotions, deodorants etc. Good thing I read it before I got in the shower! It made my shower go more quickly. I put on comfortable clothes for easy on and off because its not everyday I get my boobs photographed.
As you may have guessed I didn’t fill out the paperwork. So, I did that quickly in the morning. I filled out the usual info with my name, address, birth date and breast history. According to the form my breast history was pretty uneventful, but I think my husband would disagree. It did make the form easy to fill out though, so I stashed the paperwork until it was time for my appointment.
The Thermography Appointment
By the time my appointment rolled around I was a little more nervous than I was before which didn’t mean good things for my hairy, deodorant-free armpits. I knew there wasn’t anything to worry about and had talked to a few people who had it done. Its just a few pictures they said.
Melissa was very welcoming as she invited me into her very cold office. She explained the cold environment was needed for the thermal imaging. Apparently, your blood vessels constrict in cooler environments which makes for a better thermal image. What I didn’t read on the website was that meant I would be standing around topless in this cold room for 15 minutes before the actual picture taking took place. It’s important to stand there with nothing touching the area that was going to be assessed with your arms up and away from your body.
She explained, the images then go a MD Radiologist and a Board-Certified Thermographer for interpretation. They create a report and after it comes back in approximately 3-7 days you schedule a consult to go over the results.
I was still thinking about how weird it would be standing around topless in the cold. So, she offered me some books to read while I stood there. She had some great The Wellness Way selections, but I had already read those, so I asked if I could use my phone instead. Nope. No phone because of the amount of heat it gives off. Before she left the room, she assured me that there was total privacy.
Assume the Position: 15 Cold Minutes for a Thermal Image
I took off my clothes from waist up and tied up my hair as she had suggested. There was a full-length mirror which was a reminder that my armpits don’t look so hot with no shaving and that I don’t often look at myself half naked in the mirror. I grabbed a juicing book that I tried to read for the next 15 minutes. It wasn’t the most interesting, but it was the biggest and would offer the most coverage if the whole privacy thing wasn’t legit.
15 weird and very cold minutes later Melissa returned. She was very casual, yet courteous to my half nakedness letting me know the process would be very quick. She told me to stand in front of the camera. So, I put the book down now I asked? I had been holding the book in front of my girls. I wanted to bring it with me but its didn’t work like that.
Melissa asked that I put my hands behind my head while she took multiple images from different angles instructing me to turn towards one wall then the other. I’m glad she wasn’t close because not wearing deodorant makes you realize how important deodorant is. I’m not going to lie, the process wasn’t comfortable, but it also wasn’t invasive or painful. Then the weirdest part was over.
What Happens Next
After I was back in my shirt and comfortable, Melissa explained we would set up an appointment to go over the results of my report. She also explained some of the different aspects of my health that thermography could reveal. Keep Cool Thermography uses a high resolution, FDA cleared camera which is able to pick up and monitor small changes or abnormalities in the breast by analyzing blood flow.
In cases of cancer, there will many times be an increase in blood flow in order to supply needed nutrients to the cancer cells. This increase in blood flow (angioneogenesis) will also create an increase in heat which is picked up by the highly sensitive camera. It can also show areas of inflammation, hormonal imbalances, fibrocystic changes and injury. All of this can inform a preventative health plan that can help support a body that is not an ideal environment for cancer to grow. A body that’s inhospitable to cancer.
Breast Interest for your Health
Which is what I want to do and I’m sure other women are looking for different options than just going through tests to see if they have cancer. Thermography can be an additional tool to what you are doing to support a healthy lifestyle and exams to check for any abnormalities. Don’t forget about the hormone testing! You want to go to a practitioner who will test your hormones completely. Doc would say this is the number one thing you can do for your breast health and something I wish I would have done a long time ago. It’s in your breast interest.
It’s never too early (and it’s never too late) to start thinking about preventing breast cancer and supporting your body with the best health. That’s why I paid someone to photograph my boobs.
Written By Dawn Miller