Breast Cancer Screening B.S.

Posted May 14, 2009

I rarely watch the local news these days, but last night I happened to catch another one of those reports that provides clues to why people believe stupid stuff. They see it on the news.

The report, which appears on the My Fox LA website, suggested that thermography is a good alternative to mammograms for breast cancer screening. In fact, they go so far as to title the report “A Better Way to Detect Breast Cancer?”

In a nutshell, this is their argument:

  • Many women hate mammograms
  • It’s not painful
  • There’s no radiation
  • It’s safe for pregnancy
  • It’s non-invasive (so are mammograms, btw)
  • No single tool can pick up 100% of cancers

The report admits that no major medical organization endorses the procedure, but continues as if this point is not relevant. In fact, their statement, that these organizations consider the practice “investigative”, is misleading at best. For example, the position of the American College of Radiology for nearly 20 years has been that “…thermography has not been demonstrated to have value as a screening, diagnostic, or adjunctive imaging tool.” That does not mean “investigative”. It means it is totally unproven.

The doctor (who provides this service) says “Radiating the breast every year seems to me potentially dangerous.”

NEWSFLASH: Breast cancer is “potentially dangerous”.

The facts are that thermography is not “new”; it has been studied for many years, yet it has failed as a diagnostic or theraputic tool.Regarding mammograms, we are exposed to background radiation everywhere, but some activities, such as flying (due to more atmospheric radiation at altitudes, NOT to the aircraft’s operation), result in more exposure than others. According to Young, Burch, and Oduko (published in 2005 in The British Journal of Radiology), the radiation to which the average woman is exposed during a yearly mammogram is less than .2 rads, which is approximately equivalent to the increase in exposure she would experience flying from Australia to the UK and back. Women are betting their lives because the average person does not possess enough knowledge to accurately assess the risks and weigh them against the benefits. We rely on doctors to do that for us.

So let’s look a little closer at the kind of doctor who is peddling this B.S. The doctor in this report, Lauren Swerdloff, takes money from women (insurance will not pay for alternative medicine) in her clinic in Santa Monica. Check out what her website says…

Dr. Swerdloff is known for her integrative approach combining principals of conventional medicine with nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, and other alternative approaches to problems.

…I am open to using nutritional supplements, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbs, Intravenous treatments, Bio-Energetic Mind-Body Medicine, and Spiritual Techniques.

So, she is a CAM peddler (which makes her, IMO, a quack).

…As an artist she immediately saw the potential benefit in using infrared photography in Medicine. She is truly a renaissance woman ahead of her time.

Is she serious?

The fact that your insurance carrier may not pay for a particular item or service does not mean that you should not receive it. There may be a good reason the doctor recommended it.

A good reason? Just what reasons qualify as good? Is “because I bought the equipment” a good reason? Is “because it will make you feel better about yourself” a good reason? Here is a good reason to say no: Insurance companies will not pay for it because it is both unnecessary and uninformative. They also will not pay for tea leaf reading as a cancer screening and neither should you.

And how’s this for clarity:

If you have no insurance Dr. Swerdloff usually charges for her time which is billed by codes, $500.00 for a 99205, $250.00 for a 99215, $200.00 for a 99354 and $150 for a 99355.

Finally, Swerdloff’s website claims that thermography is “100% safe”. Um… yeah… except for the part about replacing screening procedures that actually have the ability to detect cancer.

Fox LA’s “news” program ran an even more astonishing piece about 2 weeks ago which also featured comments by Swerdloff. In “Placentas May Help Relieve Depression”, they discussed what one woman called “a trend in the birthing community”: placentophagy. Women consume capsules of dried and ground placenta to avoid and/or treat postpartum depression. Of course, there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim, either.

KTTV (Fox LA) should be ashamed of themselves.



pet-health-pro on June 24th, 2009 at 05:10:

Thank you very much for sharing this information!
Experience with the interpretation of thermographic pictures is the key and excellent equipment(which will cost quite a bit more than the popular handheld devices). Still, it would only be a tool for detection of the case that there is “something” not ok, but for further differenciation more reliable diagnostics need to be implied.
Thermography is becoming more and more popular in Veterinary Medicine, wildlife and zoo medicine. (Also, if you detect via thermography some warm spot/area, you need still to investigate with conventional methods/imaging etc.)
In Germany they started to train and employ blind people(women) to palpate the breast. They are able to find even small nodules in the female breast tissue: their sensible fingertips are phenomenal in detecting unregularities! But the final word and decision lies still in the hands of the physician.

Administrator on June 24th, 2009 at 06:59:

Did you actually READ the entry?
The diagnostic use of thermography is pseudoscience. I don’t care how popular it is, “worthless” does not suddenly mean “useful” just because someone uses it.

Regarding using blind people to look for tumors: how silly. Women are perfectly capable of doing their own examinations and their doctors and nurses are fine back-ups. Mammograms, given at recommended intervals, cannot be replaced with that type of examination simply because you assume that the person doing it has more “sensible fingertips”.

Genesis Pure on June 30th, 2009 at 22:01:

This is pretty interesting. Self-examination is important to detecting if you have lumps or masses on your breast and if you’re not quite sure, a visit to a doctor, is the option…just be sure you’re knocking on the door of a bonafide doctor that is .

Christine Call on July 3rd, 2009 at 21:55:

About 18 years ago I was going to a Dr. that suggested Thermography. I had felt a nodule and had a mamogram the year before. Was given a clean bill of health. So this year I decided to have the Thermography. Whola!!! There it was. Hot as can be. Right where I said it was. SO I went back to have another Mamogram. They decided based on the Thermography to do a biopsy. The mamogram was not showing anything unusal according to the specialist. That’s probably because I am kinda lumpy. But not that bad. I had surgery. Thank the Lord it was begnin. But the tumor was larger than what they thought it would be by a lot. It was kinda growing inward.

All of this happened at a well know hospital in the Los Angeles area. Do I believe in Thermography. Yes, hell yes!!! What possible reason would someone have to try to turn females off of getting the ebst medical tests possible. This should be added to the Mamogram at different intervals just for protection. If I had gone undetected I hate to guess what might ahve happened.

Hey Dr. Swerloff and others proactive like you. Keep doing what you are doing. These other Dr’s are like the ones that said Folic Acid, B12 and other major supplements did us no good. Only to have all of those Dr.s now saying they are a major part of our well being like vitamin “D”.

God Bless

Administrator on July 4th, 2009 at 19:33

Christine: I am baffled by comments from those which appear to have read none of the post on which they are commenting. Usually, these are people who obviously Googled a topic and simply posted comments in order to place a link to their website. Since you posted no link, I remain baffled by your last paragraph.

So, I’ll say it again in case you are keeping track of replies to your comment.

Swerloff is a QUACK, thermography is a SHAM, and your anecdote is not evidence to the contrary.

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