Infrared technology could lead to mammogram alternative


by Suzanne Bissett

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Posted on November 19, 2009 at 6:52 PM

The new federal recommendations when it comes to mammograms have a lot of women confused and a lot of experts angry. One California doctor says he has a high tech way that cuts through the controversy.

“I would not have survived to raise my children. I would not have,” Lorraine Webel said. “The doctor said I would not have survived for another mammogram.”

Lorraine Webel had no family history of cancer. When she found a lump with a breast self-exam, she went immediately to her doctor for a mammogram. It was malignant cancer.

Now she fears the new guidelines calling for less frequent breast exams may cost more lives.

“I believe totally that insurance companies are going to jump on the bandwagon and say if the guidelines are in place then we're not going to spend the money for mammograms,” she said.

Dr. Phillip Bretz runs the Desert Breast Institute in California. He's also worried about the new guidelines, especially for some minority groups.

“It's the biggest study on African American women -- and one of the results was, that if they implemented that, was to have mammography for African American girls starting at age 30 because they presented at 33,” Bretz explained.

And now Dr. Bretz says he's come up with an alternative to a mammogram. It's called the infrared cancer detector. It's the only one of its kind in California.

Dr. Bretz hopes women will take charge and go to their political leaders in hopes of progressing this technology.

“I want them to call Mary Bono's office and ask Mary to sit down with us and see if we can get a congressional hearing and invite the genetics people, people from Cornell that are researching infrared along with me,” he said.

Since breast implants can reduce the mammogram's ability to detect breast cancer, some doctors say infrared mammography enables doctors to see more of the tissue.

We couldn't find a center here in Arizona using infrared, but many hope this technology soon becomes available.

Dr. Bretz adds his breast cancer research is promising with testing on 500 patients so far. But with additional waiting to get his results published in a peer reviewed journal, it could be years before the infrared detector replaces mammography.