TV Personality Gail Porter has, apparently, been through more than her share of setbacks.
At the height of her fame, she famously lost all her hair, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and was segmented briefly just a few years later. In 2009 she lost her mother to cancer.
One evening last summer, as she changed into her pajamas, she wondered if her luck had failed her again. As she checked her breasts, as she regularly did, she felt clearly visible lumps.
& # 39; I could feel small hard lumps on both breasts and I thought: & # 39; & # 39; They weren't there before & # 39; & # 39 ;, says Gail, 48, who has a teenage daughter, Honey, with her ex-husband, Toploader guitarist Dan Hipgrave.
Gail Porter, who checked her breasts, as she regularly did, felt clearly visible lumps last summer
Lost relatives of cancer have lost – her maternal great-grandmother had breast cancer, her grandmother thyroid cancer and her mother Sandra died of lung cancer in 2009 – Gail understandably thought the worst.
& # 39; But you have to face your fears, & # 39; she says. & # 39; It's very easy to think: & # 39; I'm going to Sainsbury & # 39; s and don't think about it. & # 39; Instead, I started investigating what I could do. & # 39;
The obvious next step would have been to ask her doctor for a mammogram referral. This form of x-ray radiation is offered by the NHS to all women over the age of 50 every three years. But Gail, then 47 years old, hadn't had one yet.
And she had reservations: she wanted answers quickly and she was worried about the radiation exposure that comes with a mammogram.
In fact, according to the Public Health England figures, the risk of radiation-induced cancer is only between one in 49,000 and one in 98,000 per mammogram; each visit exposes a woman to roughly the same radiation that she would receive from the natural environment in a few weeks.
But Gail still felt it was a risk that she wanted to avoid if possible. And through the power of Google, she came across an alternative: thermography.
This controversial technique uses an infrared camera to absorb temperature changes in the breast: the & # 39; thermogram & # 39; image resembles a heat map.
The theory is that tumors, which are formed by rapidly dividing cells, require a high blood flow and act as a & # 39; hot spot & # 39 ;.
She was wary of an NHS mammogram and came across an alternative through the power of Google: thermography
More controversially, it is claimed that it can detect heat changes up to ten years before cancer can be detected by a mammogram.
& # 39; If you have heat from one breast not coming from the other, it signals that there could be a problem & # 39 ;, says Dr. Nyjon Eccles, a doctor with a special interest in integrated medicine, who Gail thermogram.
& # 39; There may be an inflammation or infection – but it may also be an early form of cancer. & # 39;
Images are taken in a cool room and Dr. Eccles says that the camera used can detect temperature differences of 0.05 c. & # 39; The heat variations between the two breasts are compared with computer-assisted technology – much more accurate than the human eye & # 39 ;, says Dr. Eccles.
He would like to see it as a & # 39; addition to at least & # 39; on mammography, to detect cancer earlier.
Proponents say that thermography is pain-free (while a breast is pressed between two X-rays) and because there is no radiation, they can be repeated as often as necessary.
This controversial technique uses an infrared camera to absorb temperature changes in the breasts
It may seem like an attractive option – and many women avoid traditional screening for concerns that mammography may detect cancers that don't spread beyond the breast.
The NHS says that the breast screening program (offering a mammogram to women aged 50-70, or 47-73 in some areas, every three years) saves 1,300 lives per year by detecting cancers early: more than 50 percent of cases identified nodules are too small to be felt.
However, it says that 4,000 women a year are diagnosed with cancers that would never become life-threatening and therefore undergo invasive treatment.
But thermography can have even more disadvantages.
Although it was introduced in the 1950s, it is not available everywhere in the UK – Dr. Eccles is the only one who offers and trains others in technology – and the costs start at £ 295, just for the images.
And most studies have found that it is not nearly as accurate as mammography. A study published in the journal Breast Care in 2016 checked 132 patients with mammograms and thermography, and subsequent biopsies. Thermography had 47 percent accuracy in spotting tumors compared to 79 percent for the mammogram.
Gail lost her mother Sandra (left) to cancer in 2009. Her mother was photographed at the Gail wedding in 2001
Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration published a damning statement: & # 39; There are no valid scientific data to show that thermography, when used alone or with another diagnostic test, is an effective screening tool for all medical purposes. condition, including the early detection of breast cancer or other diseases and health conditions. & # 39;
Dr. Eccles admits that thermography has limitations. & # 39; If a cancer is growing slowly or is deep within the tissue, you may not see enough temperature change coming to the surface & he says. & # 39; But based on the studies – and if done correctly – the sensitivity is 90-95 percent (that is, 90 to 95 percent of the risk groups are identified). & # 39;
But some experts argue that heat changes may not represent cancer and cause unnecessary anxiety. & # 39; The principle is correct – any malignancy will have a higher blood flow, so it can look warmer & # 39 ;, says Tena Walters, a breast cancer doctor at Harley Street Clinic in London.
& # 39; The problem is that it is oversensitive and may pick up hotspots that you don't have to worry about.
& # 39; Also, some tumors may not be as demanding in terms of blood flow, so these can be missed.
Gail Porter has gone through a series of problems with physical and mental health. On the photo when she arrived at the MOBO Awards held at Alexandra Palace on April 19, 2000
& # 39; There is a margin of error – there is with every screening method – but I would not encourage people to choose this on a mammogram, because the evidence is simply not there. & # 39;
Gail's results showed multiple hotspots. & # 39; I was told that I was at high risk and that I was getting a little tear, & she said.
Another disadvantage of thermography was that it could not identify what Gail's hotspots were – she needed a mammogram for that. Fortunately, the results showed that nothing was wrong.
& # 39; They said they think the lumps are scar tissue due to the breast reduction that I had, & # 39; Gail says. (In 2016, she had reduced her breasts from 28JJ to 28C.)
Although they need a mammogram, Gail believes that thermography is the fastest and safest way to check what her nodules were and & # 39; it certainly again & # 39; will have.
Miss Walters and others believe that there might be a place for thermography in the future – especially in developing countries where mammography is difficult for many women to access.
& # 39; Researchers are developing new versions that could one day improve the accuracy of the test & # 39 ;, says Professor Andrew Wardley, cancer oncologist for cancer at The Christie.
For the time being, however, he believes that the technology is too inaccurate to recommend it.
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