By Dr. Carla Garcia, D.O.M.
This is not a joke! Mammogram clinics are now hosting “Mammogram Parties”. According to an ABC News story titled Festive Mammogram Parties Deserve a Dose of Caution, “Most women don’t exactly view the test as a whimsical experience, so offering a few refreshments and perhaps a spa treatment or two helps lighten the mood and makes the breast exam seem less intimidating.” One attendee at a mammogram party in Nevada is quoted as saying “This time it didn’t hurt. Maybe it was the glass of wine I had before I went;”- this from an article in the Huffington Post, titled “Mammogram Parties Offer Wine, Cheese and X-Rays”. The article goes on to say, “But Some Experts Say Don’t Rush to RSVP.”
Tactics to lure women into getting a mammogram include offering gift certificates to retailers like WalMart. Mammogram vans also travel the country recruiting women for breast x-rays. The vans were originally designed to reach women in rural communities but are now setting up “shop” in major cities where there are already reliable mammogram centers with on-staff radiologists and consistent office hours. These offers will be especially prevalent as we enter the month of October, also known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to Wikipedia, “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was founded in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca, producer of several anti-breast cancer drugs). The aim of the NBCAM from the start has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer.”
Numbers of women returning to mammogram offices every year for their annual breast x-rays are declining. Women are questioning the benefit to risk ratio of exposing their breasts to ionizing radiation. Why wouldn’t women question the wisdom of getting x-rays, if according to www.cancer.org sponsored by the American Cancer Society, “Ionizing radiation is a proven human carcinogen (cancer causing agent)?” The site goes on to say that “Cancers most strongly linked to radiation exposure in studies include: Breast Cancer”. When asked about the dangers of radiation exposure in mammograms, one technician said “but it is not very much radiation because it is low dose.” Is this the equivalent of being just a little bit pregnant?
AND if that is not enough to make you think twice about what these companies are doing, the Mayo Clinic says: “Breast cancer prevention starts with healthy habits – such as limiting alcohol”, and yet the mammogram parties are serving alcohol prior to breast screening. This is not saying you should never have a mammogram or a glass of wine, but we do need to keep ourselves informed about what is in our best interests. The Hippocratic Oath (An oath stating the obligations of doctors, previously taken by those beginning a medical practice) says: “First do no harm”. The modern version of the Hippocratic Oath says: “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure”, and yet we are subjected to practices that have documented health risks. In our attempt to be healthy we have the ability to do more harm than good.
Women have become resistant to annual mammograms because more often than not, it is not a pleasant experience. You need only look up “Are Mammograms Painful?” to find hundreds of women looking for suggestions to help reduce the trauma of having one. In an article by Maressa Brown in Healthy Living, she lists “10 Secrets to a More Bearable Mammogram”; including taking pain killers and using a topical anesthetic cream right before your appointment time. Other secrets include things such as avoiding caffeine and salt for days before your breasts will be compressed in the x-ray machine. Salt contributes to fluid retention in the breast and caffeine can contribute to breast tenderness. For those of us who have been drinking coffee because it helps with weight loss, fatigue and sanity; facing caffeine withdrawal for a few days in order to have a breast screening…..is out of the question.
There is a painless and radiation free breast screening available at the Thermography Center. Thermography is a painless, non-invasive, state-of-the-art clinical test without any exposure to radiation. It is used as part of an early detection program which gives women of all ages the opportunity to increase their chances of detecting breast disease at an early stage. It is particularly useful for women under 50 where mammography is less effective; women with breast implants who are concerned about breast compression; and women over 50 who are concerned about annual exposure to ionizing radiation. We have done thermograms in our office for people aged 9 to 90.
Thermography’s role in breast cancer and other breast disorders is to help in early detection. It is useful in monitoring abnormal physiology and can help establish risk factors that contribute to the development or existence of cancer. When used with other procedures, the best possible evaluation of breast health is assured. This test is designed to improve chances for detecting fast-growing, active tumors in the intervals between mammographic screenings or when mammography is not indicated by screening guidelines for women (as with women under 50 years of age).
All patient thermograms (breast images) at our clinic are kept on record and form a baseline for all future routine evaluations. Images are evaluated by medical doctors and a narrative report with images is sent to her physician and to the patient (if the patient requests it). Dr. Carla Garcia at the Thermography Center in Albuquerque has been doing breast and full-body thermographic screening for 15 years. Her expertise is recognized by doctors in the U.S., Canada and Europe. She acts as a consultant to thermographers in other cities and her patients include well know celebrities, physicians and people from all walks of life. Dr. Carla was featured in a news story about breast thermography on NBC affiliate station KOB TV:
The Thermography Center is unique in that it offers three types of screenings. DITI (Digital infrared thermal imaging) for breast and full body, computerized regulation thermography (used primarily by biological medicine specialists), and clinical breast examination.
The cover letter that accompanies mammogram results sent to patients includes a paragraph that says: “Please remember that some cancers (about 20%) cannot be found by mammography. Early detection requires a combination of monthly breast self-examination, yearly clinical breast examination, and periodic mammograms.” Dr. Garcia offers clinical breast examinations and provides instruction for monthly breast self-examination. Many people that are trained to take thermal images are not licensed practitioners and cannot do clinical examinations. They are limited in their understanding of the patient’s symptoms or history. Images at the Thermography Center are taken by Dr. Carla Garcia; a nationally board certified and licensed practitioner in the state of New Mexico.
Call the Thermography Center to schedule a breast or full-body screening at your convenience. The Center has been serving New Mexico for over 15 years. The clinic is open for thermographic screening Monday thru Friday. Calls to schedule an appointment are answered 7 days a week and including evening hours.
Things to look for in a thermography office:
- A camera that is an FDA registered Class I medical device. There are only two in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area. The Thermography Center in Albuquerque and Dr. Russ Canfield M.D., of 360 Medicine in Santa Fe.
- Reports written by licensed M.D.s
- A licensed professional that can offer clinical examination if you want or need it.
- An office that can schedule thermograms 5 days a week for your convenience. In some other states, you may find breast screenings offered by mobile thermography. These mobile units offer appointments only on certain days because they move around to different offices.
- An office that can take thermal images of the entire body; if you decide to do more than breast screening.