I caught up with Dr Kathleen in a sunny cafe in Grey Lynn where she was letting her decaf latte go cold while talking about the importance of encouraging more women to be more proactive about breast cancer prevention. Dr Kathleen stresses that early detection and regular checks are not just for women over forty; an increasing number of women in their twenties also get breast cancer and would benefit from regular breast checks as well.

While mammography is probably the most well-known method used for breast screening, Dr Kathleen says thermography and ultrasound are both less invasive and accurate options:

  • Thermography is a painless, radiation-free, thermal imaging system that may be used to detect early breast tissue changes and has been known to detect early signs of cancer up to 10 years earlier than mammograms.
    Thermographs use heat to measure increased blood supply in areas of the breast which can be an indicator for cancer to develop and are a useful tool to help keep track of changes to breast tissue over time. There are a number of clinics around New Zealand, for more information click here
  • In the public system, if women are referred by their GP for breast screening, they have options for screening –  mammograms and ultrasounds, in which case, Dr Kathleen recommends the ultrasound as they are radiation-free and provides a method to examine dense breast tissue in-depth.

What to look for in a self exam

Once a month it’s a good idea to check your breasts, not just pressing them for lumps but also looking for changes. It’s important to take the next step and talk to your GP or health practitioner if you notice any of the following:

  • Lumps
  • Discolouration
  • Puckering
  • Nipple inverts
  • Scaliness or dryness of skin

Over the next few days I’ll be blogging more about my conversation with Dr Kathleen, including the importance of nutrition and environment on breast cancer prevention.


Written by Melanie Rands – 14th November 2013