The Best Breast Test: Exploring Thermography (Part One)

I am SO excited to have my wonderful thermographer, Candace Parmer, as a guest blogger for this multi-part series on breast thermography and the many benefits it has as the safest and FIRST test women should get with a provider when looking for early signs of breast cancer.

Candace’s mission is “to help women see themselves in a new light – their own. Capturing the light they emit with thermography, and facilitating their understanding of the information it provides, is fulfilling work that I enjoy. The clients who find thermography are typically wise, well-informed, and happy to take control of their breast health in a way not possible with conventional screening.”

How did she get into the field? Parmer explains, “Imaging breasts with the camera didn’t interest me initially because I knew nothing about breast health or breast cancer. I took time off and studied for months going down rabbit holes.  What I learned about the breast cancer screening industry caused sadness and disbelief that turned into a fire of inspiration because I knew I could make a difference with the camera, so Radiant Body Thermography was born in early 2014.  Soon I discovered most women are also lacking cancer knowledge at diagnosis, at a time when they are most vulnerable and in need of accurate information.”

As a an incredibly commonsense, intelligent, and caring provider who has done her homework on the myths and realities surrounding breast health and cancer detection, she calls it like she sees it. “As in many industries, the corporations with help from mainstream media, use fear, misinformation and omission of facts to sell products and services that are damaging to health yet very profitable for stockholders. Breast “care” is no exception and in my opinion contains much abuse of unsuspecting women. Instead of being offered thermography’s safe, early-detection of pre-tumor changes, women are shamed into screening for tumors with carcinogenic late-detection that may even crush and spread tumors. Treatment of cancer tumors is much more lucrative than the treatment of precursors such as lymphatic congestion or inflammation, both of which have thermal signatures that are usually easily improved with diet and lifestyle changes.”

That last statement of hers reminded me of my back injury, where so many doctors are eager to send you in for spinal surgery as a “quick fix”, even though it’s being proven time and again that physical therapy is ultimately better solution. People hate to think that doctors are also business owners, and that they don’t all operate the same, and as someone who’s gone through 6 rounds of DEIVF after 2 rounds of IUI and met with multiple different providers during these years, it’s the biggest heartbreaking reality dose when you realize that yes, medicine is big business and not all out there are looking out for you and your individual needs. Mother Jones reports that the companies manufacturing drugs like Tamoxifen (which has been shown to cause uterine cancer) and selling mammography equipment like DuPont and GE (who have the highest number of EPA Superfund waste sites in the country, by the way)  have a vested interest that you not question them…as does the mega pinkwasher Susan G Komen, who receives massive donations from these and other organizations who manufacture carcinogenic products (Estee Lauder and Avon, the biggest bullshitters of them all in the unregulated cosmetics industry, both make products with carcinogens and hormone disruptors, AND even have the audacity to give their products away to cancer patients!).

Personally, I have been getting breast thermography since 2013 after learning about them in reading Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by longtime ob/gyn and medical professor Dr. Christiane Northrup. who has been advocating for women’s health for 25+ years. Her book is considered THE bible on women’s health, and actually was the textbook in my college course on Women’s Health at PCC.

I became interested in it as someone who, before this, was told since the age of 28 that, due to family history of breast cancer on both sides, I needed to have ANNUAL mammograms. They were horribly painful, emotionally traumatic, and never once were the risks explained to me about getting something that emits 1,000 times the radiation of a chest x-ray into my body, nor did any ob/gyn or primary care doctor, over 10 years, mention any of the following:

“An expert panel from the American College of Physicians (ACP), which represents 120,000 internists…found the data (from 117 studies conducted between 1966-2005) on mammography screening for women in their 40s are so unclear that the effectiveness of reducing breast cancer death could be either 15% or “… nearly zero…The dangers of mammography are recognized in the medical field. According to Dr. Samuel Epstein of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, “Screening mammography poses significant and cumulative risks of breast cancer for pre-menopausal women…Cells damaged by the radiation can become “pre-cancerous”. In addition, the high radiation burns tissue as all direct radiation does. If any neurotoxins present interact with burnt or damaged breast tissue, a tumor can begin to form. The neurotoxins first inhibit the body’s ability to fight off tumor formation and the unacceptable radiation dosages finish the job. Since mammographic screening was introduced, the incidence of a form of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS ) has increased by 328%.” (source)

Learning this was such a wakeup call for me, not only for not doing more homework on my own and putting my blind faith in these providers that this pain was “for my own good” (I had fully drank the pink ribbon-infused Kool-Aid back then), but also in thinking about the breast cancer cases like Janice Dickinson, Sandra Lee, Sheryl Crow, and others diagnosed with DCIS, which is not actual cancer, getting surgeries and running around with pink ribbons as if they’d actually had cancer. It’s not their fault, as too many doctors out there are surgery happy, pushing women to go for the full mastectomy and calling women with a few messed up cells a “ticking time bomb” even though “studies have found that only 1 to 2 percent of women with DCIS later die of breast cancer, regardless of whether they had a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery.”

Even Dr. Seth Kaufman, who follows the herd and promotes radiation, intense drug therapy and surgery as a way to “treat” DCIS even though it’s not actually cancer (it’s like calling Life “Pre-Death”, y’all), he admitted,  “DCIS is not a true invasive breast cancer, it is not a life-threatening disease.” And then there are the women who (this continues to blow my mind) preemptively has their breasts cut off solely based on risk, like Wanda Sykes and Angelina Jolie, even though 90-95% percent of women who develop breast cancer do not have a BRCA inherited gene mutation.

I also read about Dr Sandra Hwang, the chief of breast surgery at the Duke Cancer Institute, who “has devoted herself to trying to stop the freight train of overtreatment for DCIS—which accounts for 25 percent to 30 percent of annual breast cancer diagnoses, a figure expected to grow as mammography and other imaging technologies become more powerful.” Along with her, I read about UCSF’s Dr Laura Esserman, who is a clinic director in the Bay Area, a true badass who questions the status quo in defense of women and is “one of only a few surgeons in the United States willing to put women with D.C.I.S. on active surveillance instead of performing biopsies, lumpectomies or mastectomies.”

So considering the rates of overdiagnosis going on out there matched with the evidence that DCIS cases are growing due to mammography, it made perfect sense to me to start out with breast thermography as a first step, and then – and only then – if there were concerns, it would be followed up by a breast MRI (*not* a mammogram which could make things worse). Considering my (paternal) aunt was diagnosed when her tumor was the size of a peach, the fact that mammograms give out false positives or false negatives 20% of the time, while breast thermography can diagnose tumors as much as 10 years before a mammogram could, that was also HUGE for me.

Long story short, after going to a less-than-caring provider the first couple of times, in 2017 I switched over to ACCT-certified thermographer Candace Parmer, CCT, and it has been a great match. So, with no further ado, here’s Candace, explaining the basics of breast thermography…

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What is Breast Thermography?

Breast thermography has been registered with the FDA since 1982 for breast cancer risk assessment, and is the only medical imaging test that shows physiological function. All others (CT, PET, X-ray, mammography, MRI, ultrasound) show anatomical structureIn thermography, there’s no radiation of any kind, and no compression or contact.

Here’s how thermography relates to the body: humans emit or radiate patterns unique to the individual, a “thermal signature” that are stable over time, unless a health issue develops.  In the case of a tumor, it builds a network of blood vessels to feed itself. That extra activity (angiogenesis) generates heat which can be seen on a thermogram.

Thermograms are taken by thermographers with strict but simple protocols (e.g., you cannot have any creams, lotions, or deodorant on you – or even sunburns).  At the clinic, a sophisticated infrared camera captures the variations in infrared heat emitted from your skin. A computer transforms the temperature readings into an image or map of temperatures. Each of 80,000 pixels is measured to 1/100th of a degree.

Most disease processes demonstrate increased heat (inflammation) due to higher metabolic activity, e.g., tumors and injuries, while others show excessive cold (ischemia), such as some neurological issues. Because of this, post-surgical patients, pregnant, lactating and women going through IVF are advised to wait 3 months before imaging, as the heat from incisions and elevated hormone levels respectively obscures normal thermal patterns.

NOTE: All thermal patterns should be clinically correlated BEFORE administering treatments. That’s why we start out with breast thermography to assess risk.

How Can Surface Heat Reveal so Much?

A normal, healthy body is generally thermally symmetrical from side to side.  Thermography looks for asymmetries and abnormally high or low temperature areas inside the body by measuring skin temperatures. This is possible because all organs & most inner tissue is connected to the skin and brain via our nerves.

Nerve signals send blood closer to the skin’s surface for dissipating heat of inflammation, further from the surface for retention of warmth, according to needs of tissue within while maintaining stable body core temperature. Infrared heat information is being emitted at all times.

The ability to measure and follow a body’s unique thermal pattern over time gives a fabulously informative look into the inner workings of the body, showing early disease like no other current means of testing.  Your body is emitting from its skin, photons of light, in patterns unique to you. 

When disease is present the patterns change.  When healing begins, the patterns change.  Often in just days, the effects of a lifestyle change are visible on a thermogram.

Who Interprets Thermograms?

Thermologists are trained in the science of interpreting thermal patterns, and with combined knowledge of the subject’s health history and sophisticated software, a medical report is produced. As thermographer, I work with the patient to collect their health history and take the infrared images, then send these images and data to the thermologist for interpretation and reporting.

NOTE: While there are at least two image interpretation services, only one, Electronic Medical Interpretation (EMI) is exclusively comprised of medical doctors trained by the American College of Clinical Thermology. EMI interprets only images taken by ACCT-certified thermographers using medical cameras from FDA-inspected factories. (Beware of clinics using modified industrial cameras. At this time, there is only one FDA-registered medical grade camera on the market; it’s made by Meditherm.)

What’s in a Thermography Report?

Images and any thermal pattern findings that look suspicious are noted in the report, and specific diagnostic tests &/or a clinical evaluation may be recommended by the  thermologist. While referral is not required, it will assist your practitioner in discussing your report with the interpreting physician if needed.

Each breast is assessed for risk and classified in the same system used in mammography, (“within normal limits,” “at low risk,” “at some risk,” etc.). Fibrocystic patterns, thyroid & adrenal dysfunction, estrogen dominance and lymphatic congestion all have thermal signatures and will be reported if present.

One example of a high-risk patient’s improvement in thermal patterns over 90 days of increased attention to self-care.

ACCT-approved clinics take two sets of images, 90 days apart, to establish a breast baseline. Often breasts classified as “at some risk” in the first imaging report will be reclassified at the second imaging as “at low risk” when suspicious patterns have proven themselves stable. If a tumor exists, thermography can provide useful information about whether it is metabolically active (heat) or indolent and inactive (cold). And because there is no radiation exposure, quarterly follow-ups to track progress are encouraged when monitoring treatment of active tumors.

“With thermography as your regular screening tool, it’s likely that you would have the opportunity to make adjustments to your diet, beliefs, and lifestyle to transform your cells before they became cancerous.  Talk about true prevention.” ~ Dr. Christiane Northrup, from 6 Reasons Why I Recommend Thermography

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I hope you enjoyed Candace’s post ! Check out Part Two tomorrow, addressing the benefits of thermography in more detail and comparisons to mammography and other screening tools.

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