The dangers of mammograms have been somewhat lightly addressed by the recent government recommendation that women need fewer of them over their lifetimes.
Despite the outcry that fewer mammograms will kill women, the truth is that mammograms endanger your health.
I’ve talked about the dangers of mammograms and the
benefits of thermograms in the first two articles in this series.
If you’ve decided to schedule a thermogram, congratulations!
If you’re not sure yet or you don’t know where to get one, read more here.
Here’s what to expect when you have a thermogram.
Preparing for a thermogram
1. Avoid natural or artificial tanning for one week prior to your thermogram.
2. Refrain from saunas, steam baths, and hot or cold packs for at least 24 hours prior to your thermogram. Do not bathe, shower, or exercise during the hour prior to your thermogram appointment. Wait for 36 hours after a high fever before having a thermogram.
3. Refrain from using any tobacco products and consuming any caffeine including caffeinated coffee, tea, or sodas for two hours prior to your thermogram.
4. Remove large jewelry prior to imaging; however, small necklaces actually enable the thermogram technician to sharpen the focus of your thermogram.
6. Avoid shaving your underarms or applying any underarm deodorants or antiperspirants in addition to all powders, creams, or lotions on your arms or chest on the day of your thermogram.
7. Do not exercise, or engage in any activities that will increase your blood pressure.
8. Do not smoke or drink alcohol for a minimum of 24 hours before your appointment.
9. Take only medications that you take regularly. Your physician can give you further information.
10. Wear comfortable clothing that covers your arms and legs to your appointment. A lose button-front shirt is great.
11. Avoid confrontation or emotional stress on the day of your thermogram. That can quite literally raise your skin temperature.
What happens during an exam
When you arrive at your appointment, you be asked to take off all clothing and jewelry above the waist.
You may be asked to wait in an environmentally controlled room for about 15 minutes to get your skin temperature to a definable level.
When you are brought into the imaging room, you’ll be standing in front of the camera with your fingers clasped behind your head, elbows pointing out to the sides. Between 7 and 9 views of your breast will be taken, depending on the size of your breasts.
A second set of images is sometimes taken after your hands have been submerged in cold water for one minute.
Your thermogram will be read by a licensed thermologist and, usually, by your doctor as well. Breast thermograms receive one of five ratings that range from TH1 (no detectable thermal abnormalities) to TH5 (detection of thermal abnormalities correlating with very significant risk for breast cancer).
Any positive result signals a need for further evaluation. Early thermal abnormalities may result in a recommendation to repeat thermography for comparison in 60-120 days.
Depending on the thermology rating and other forms of evaluation, a referral may be made for targeted ultrasound or to a breast specialist.
Doctors trained in holistic medicine may also recommend nutritional, metabolic, environmental, or lifestyle interventions to address early thermal abnormalities.
Cost of a thermogram
The cost of the thermograms is reasonable, generally between $100 and $200, depending on where you live.
Many insurance companies will cover thermography, but since there seems to be an endless variety of insurance plans, be sure to check with your insurer and the provider of the thermogram.
If your insurance plan includes “out-of-network” and non standard-of-care benefits, you will probably receive some insurance reimbursement. Your insurance company may require a referral from your doctor or pre-approval or authorization.
For your doctor’s information, the billing code (known as a CPT code) is 93762. Knowing this number will help you get reimbursement.
If you’re at high risk…
If you are at high risk for breast cancer (biggest risk: breast cancer in your mother or sister and, if you know, the presence of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes) or if you underwent radiation therapy of the chest, your doctor and your insurance company agree that annual MRI screening is warranted. An estimated 1.4 million American women fall into this category, but that doesn’t mean their health insurance companies . will automatically cover the $1,500-$4,000 cost of an MRI. Prepare for at least a minor skirmish, if not a major battle, to get an MRI if you and your doctor think it is necessary.
Some ammo for your battle: Guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommend annual MRI scans in addition to mammograms for all women at high risk of developing breast cancer, starting at age 30.
Check out this book from Kathleen Barnes, co-author, with Dr. Ben Johnson, of The Secret of Health: Breast Wisdom.