BREAST HEALTH AND THERMOGRAPHY
The Shock of a Breast Lump
A Patient’s Experience with COEM’s Breast Thermography Program
On what was supposed to be a happy occasion, my 40th birthday, my big surprise was discovering what every woman fears–a pronounced lump in my breast. Dread and anxiety consumed my thoughts. This was when my personal journey began.
My name is Charlene & I currently live in the Greater Boston/South New Hampshire area. My first stop on my journey was to my Primary Care Physician who, I believe, like many physicians in Massachusetts/NH,
was overzealous toward recommending that I have another mammogram. Fourteen months earlier, I had had a baseline mammogram at the urging of this same physician. Her reason for the recommendation at that time was because I was approaching 40 and it was customary to have an initial mammogram between the ages of 35-40. At that time, I didn’t think much about it because I reasoned, “This is what everyone does, isn’t it?”
Here I was with a pronounced lump and again facing a mammogram. However, by now I had done some research and I didn’t like the details of what I found. Not everyone has mammograms. In fact, much of the information pointed out there were equally if not more reliable sources of imaging women’s breasts. My research caused me to question the necessity and the safety of this test.
My main concerns were that exposure to radiation is cumulative and with all my other chronic exposures, including dental x-rays, cell phone & computer use, I was leery of taking on this additional radiation exposure from repeated mammograms. One quote from my research stuck with me: “Suffice it to say that one does not go about exposing the most susceptible segment of the population with more carcinogens when other alternatives are available”– Chris Gupta.
My doctor then agreed with my concerns and recommended I have an ultrasound. The good news was that the ultrasound results were negative for masses & cysts, yet my physician recommended that because of the breast lump, I should obtain another source of testing for confirmation.
Living in the Boston area, I have always considered it one of the best places to be if you are sick, because it is a Mecca of medical facilities and highly trained physicians. Now however, I was beginning to doubt that which I had always relied on. My research showed me we have been almost completely overlooking the much safer thermal and infrared imaging technologies (Thermography). I then searched for medical centers that offer Thermography and sorted through them by calling them and reading information posted on their websites. Of all the centers I read about and called, COEM, the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Charleston, SC, was by far the most informative and personable.
Cathy, COEM’s New Patient Coordinator and my first contact with COEM, was at first hesitant about my decision to come to their Center. I explained I was from the Boston area and wanted to know more about the process and the time I needed to have the procedure, if insurance covered it and, if not, the costs involved. She took almost 40 minutes on the telephone explaining the process and at one point had to calm me down since I was pretty shaken up by my whole situation. She then explained she would send me the packet of information we had discussed and that I should review all of it. If I decided to go ahead, I could fill out the forms and give her a call to schedule an appointment.
In the meantime, I had searched out the care of a Naturopathic physician whose practice concentrated on nutrition and nutritional supplements. My first appointment included several lab/blood tests, including one specifically called the AMAS test. Literature about this test states: “AMAS stands for ‘anti-malignin antibody in serum.’ The test is extremely sensitive; blood levels of this antibody rise early in the course of the vast majority of cancers of all types, regardless of location in the body. The test is especially useful when cancer is suspected but has not been confirmed by a biopsy.”–Dr. Ron Schmid.
My AMAS test results were borderline. The physician I was seeing recommended I should treat this as positive. This was a bit confusing and concerned me, although I was told that it is recommended when the results are borderline to repeat the test in 3 months. I started to take some of the nutritional supplements that this doctor recommended, but I also knew it was time to go ahead and schedule the Thermography appointment with COEM. Since I would have to take a flight to get there, my decision required some strategic planning. I checked out flights and again called Cathy at COEM to see if they had available time on the date I wanted. Somehow their available time and my schedule all meshed perfectly.
On Wednesday October 24th 2007, my boyfriend Ron & I arrived in South Carolina to find out what Thermography and the people at COEM were all about. As exhausted as we were from our flight, the welcome reception we received was second to none.
First I met with Sheila – the Clinical Coordinator- she was absolutely wonderful. She made me feel comfortable about how the thermascan worked and what I should expect. She showed me sample images from thermascans representing different stages of abnormal changes in breast tissues, and then we got started. I was in a small room by myself, undressed from the waist up, for about 10-15 minutes while acclimating to the room temperature. Then Sheila came back in and took 3 images. After that, I was asked to immerse my hands in cold water – I think it was about 55 degrees–and Sheila immediately took 3 more images. The procedure was quick and easy and everyone treated me with the utmost courtesy & respect. Taking into consideration that I had flown down from NH, Sheila thought it would be a good idea to introduce me to Dr. Lieberman, MD, Medical Director of the Center. I was very happy to have the pleasure to make his acquaintance. We talked only briefly; however, he made me feel more comfortable than any other physician during my prior ordeal. I felt as if no matter what the outcome of my scans proved to be, I was at the right place to work through it.
In my conversations with Sheila, I learned about a procedure called LBG (light Beam Generator) that is somewhat like a massage, only using LBG technology. I thought it would be a good idea to try this. I met with Heather, Licensed Massage Therapist at COEM, and we discussed using LBG for me. We decided that the lump might be a result of lymph fluid being obstructed and if that was the case, this technology would help move it along. After the procedure, over the next few days, the lump appeared to be coming & going at various times throughout the day, and now, a few months later, it is completely gone.
Approximately 2 weeks after my visit to COEM, I received the interpretation of the thermascans. After discussing the results by phone, I also received a full written report and copies of the thermascan images. They were rated TH-1 (normal) for both breasts. I was ecstatic–this was the best news I could have received!
With no more breast lump and two different types of tests (ultrasound and Thermography) indicating healthy breast tissues, I finally had the peace of mind I wanted.
From the moment I found the lump through receiving my results from COEM, one question kept coming to mind. “With all the money, time and studies invested in cancer research, shouldn’t ALL the information be available to anyone who seeks it out?” The sole purpose for me wanting to write this article is because I truly feel that all women everywhere should be made aware of all available techniques for breast imaging. Common sense will direct each person toward the technology that is best for them. Why not give women all the options?
Editor’s Note: Thermography, when interpreted by a certified Thermologist with extensive experience, is an extremely effective tool for women to use as part of a comprehensive breast health program. COEM recommends this very safe and non-invasive procedure be used at regular intervals to continue to monitor breast health. Over a thousand breast Thermography scans have been performed, to date, at COEM.