A Mammogram is No Substitute for a Breast Self Exam

Breast Cancer Awareness (stationary)We asked our expert contributors this week to write in about the importance of breast self exams, mammograms, and other types of exams that can help us with an early detection of breast cancer.

Over and over again, we have heard the importance of knowing your own breasts. While there are other tests available – the most reliable source of detection is YOU.

Our expert contributor and board certified dermatologist, Tanya Kormeili, shares a story with us regarding the importance of knowing our breasts and changes that occur in them:

I was referred a 60 year old woman with negative mammography last year for some “rash on the breasts.” She denied any pain, nipple discharge or bleeding. On examination, I found two small papules (bumps!) on the top and bottom of the right nipple. The left breast had an area of “rash” as well. While the left breast biopsy (procedure where piece of skin is removed and examined under the microscope for diagnositc purposes) was negative, the right breast was positive for breast cancer. Her mammography was repeated and was still negative!

The lesson here: mammographs are not 100% or a substitue for good examination. The bumps were noted by her astute primary care doctor and referred to me for examination. The breast cancer had spread from the breast tissue to the skin, where I could sample it for diagnosis. An MRI of the breast has been ordered for more precise diagnosis. Our patient is scheduled for surgery. Always, report any skin changes, non healing sores, new bumps or growths, bleeding spots or areas of concern to a dermatologist as soon as possible. Because of this skin biopsy we were able to diagnose the breast cancer missed by 2 mammograms, and help save her life!

Tanya Kormeili, MD, FAAD Board Certified Dermatologist


Our next story was provided to us by our expert contributor, Jessica Stone Baker of The Mindful Body. Her story reminds us to trust our instincts. As we learned from Tanya, while mammograms are important – they are not fool proof. Know your options:


In 2007, I had a thermography (a non-radiation based thermal form of detection) which identified a malignancy (65 – 85%) in my left lateral quadrant. Three months later, the MD ordered a mammogram which detected absolutely no abnormalities. No biopsy was done because I was only 34 and the MD dismissed the thermography.

In January 2011, I was diagnosed with stage 3c breast cancer and the malignant lump was located exactly where it had been years earlier on the thermography. I have dense younger women’s breast tissue. Because of my physician’s lack of action, I have been through a mastectomy, axillary lymph dissection, 6 rounds of chemotherapy, and 33 radiation treatments, and now oral hormone therapy for five years.

Don’t let your MD save costs by sending you through the mammogram machine, which is a truly poor diagnostic tool under much scrutiny right now. Request an ultrasound or an MRI if you have any malignancy in your family history, thermography if it is available. Both my diagnosing MDs felt the malignancy and told me it was not cancer prior to getting test results. Palpation is not effective. Save your life, get an ultrasound, MRI or thermography instead!

Jessica Stone Baker, BA, NCTMB, RMT, AOS, RYT, Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, The Mindful Body


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