Chronicles of Less Urban Living, Fresh from In the Night Farm

Cancer for a Fortnight

Here’s what happened:

Three weeks ago, I had a thermoscan done.  The appointment was a gift.  All I knew about thermography was that it checks for inflammation throughout the body and can detect future disease sites by reading higher temperatures in body parts that are at risk.

A week later, I received my results.  The computerized analysis noted that “a localized elevated reaction has been detected in right breast.  This measurement indicates a high risk of a possible breast cancer development in the right breast…The high chaos index in the chest area identifies an area of concern, as this is an indicator of possible disease development.  This could be related to a disease process in the breast, lungs, or heart.”

I knew it was not a diagnosis.  I also knew it was highly unlikely that I was actually sick, right then, that day.  But that was how it felt. 

Was it possible?  I listed risk factors.

Sure, I eat paleo now.  I buy grassfed and organic now.  I supplement with Viamin D now.  I choose natural bodycare products and household cleaners now.  I avoid grains, sugars, and dairy now.

But what about the vegan years, when I believed I was doing everything right?  When I trusted whole grains, legumes, soy, “low hormone” birth control pills, backyard pesticides — indeed, conventional wisdom itself — with my life?

Yes.  It was possible that I’d come too late to the truth.

I was afraid…and I was furious.  This situation was exactly the one I lambasted in my Crap for the Cure post in October.  What the hell are we doing pouring billions of dollars into a “Cure” machine when we could be educating women about the myriad simple, relatively inexpensive steps they could take to minimize their risk of getting cancer in the first place?

I wished someone had told me sooner.  Because it looked like I might have learned too late.

Not that the possibility of “too late” was going to stop me.  I dove headlong into 100% application of the paleo lifestyle.  No more was it a casual bid for long-term health.  Now, I was betting my life on it.

In the meantime, I did more homework.  On breast health.  On cancer.  On cancer prevention and reversal.  And, of course, on thermography.

It turns out that thermography, or medical infrared imaging, has been around since the 1960s or so.  It is much more common in other countries, thanks mostly to a bungled research study that discredited the idea shortly after its arrival in the U.S.  It has since been proven both safe and extremely accurate.

For me, this was not good news.  I had wanted to discover evidence that thermography, and therefore my frightening results, was bunk.

Instead, I learned how thermography identifies inflammation in the body by measuring temperatures to detect areas harboring unnatural heat.  Inflammation, of course, is the first sign of disease — including cancer.

Breast thermography, in particular, offers a highly accurate means of detecting developing breast cancers by offering graphical evidence of angiogenesis (increased blood vessel growth that occurs to feed a tumor).  Thermography can identify pre-cancerous changes 5-10 years before a mammogram detects a lump.


Despite this discouraging news, I had reason to doubt the reliability of the naturopath who had performed my scan.   I wanted a second opinion.

And so, just this week, I drove 8 hours into my neighboring state to get it.  I visited a practitioner with extensive experience (unlike the naturopath), top-notch equipment (unlike the naturopath), and a glowing professional reputation (unlike the naturopath). 

And I learned that the naturopath was wrong.

The broad, silver lining is that I learned a lot of other things, too — particularly about breast health and cancer prevention.  There’s too much to share in one post, but stay tuned, ladies, because what I have to say should change your life.

[More posts in this cancer prevention series:  Before Early DetectionIn the Beginning:  The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent InflammationSupply Lines:  The Importance of Angiogenesis, and Short-Circuit:  Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally.  See also Crap for the Cure.]


18 responses

  1. Tom

    Very interesting. Glad you apparently got good news.

    As you may recall, I agreed with your “Crap for the Cure” post, but thought is was a bit “edgy”. And I felt kind of bad for the lady who was upset in her post back to you.

    No doubt you are on the right track in many ways with your paleo diet, avoiding pesticides, etc. And I’d bet that you have a lower cancer risk than me since I am nowhere near being able to resist the siren-call of sugar, among other food vices. I’m not challenging your position that the poor diet choices most of us make directly impacts our cancer risk, yet the attention and pink ribbons aren’t focused there.

    What I’m saying is we don’t KNOW with certainty that a paleo diet and lifestyle would prevent these cancers. It’s probably more complicated than that. It could be that a person could do every single thing right from the day she was born and end up with breast cancer at age 35. We just don’t know for sure.

    Anyway, I’m really glad that you got some good news. That’s wonderful.

    November 12, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    • Yes, of course it’s more complicated than that. Paleo eating alone isn’t “surefire prevention.” There are many, many other lifestyle factors that play into cancer development. And, of course, some cancers will occur despite even the most intensive prevention efforts. But a great many, even most, CAN be prevented — and alarmingly few people have been informed of this fact. That’s what angers me, and I’ll do what little I can to change it. It may not be much, but it’ll do a hell of a lot more good than slapping a pink ribbon on my bumper. 😉

      November 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm

      • I should add that while we don’t have much specific research on “paleo” as an anti-cancer diet, we have PLENTY of evidence that nutrition is of utmost importance in thwarting cancer development and/or progression. Yet, very few oncologists have studied nutrition at all, and many patients have been advised either that it doesn’t matter what they eat, or else to eat foods that are known cancer-promoters!

        Meanwhile, there is a large and growing body of evidence regarding myriad, individual elements of the paleo diet and lifestyle that are proven cancer-fighters. I’ll get to that in upcoming posts.

        November 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm

  2. Tom

    Kind of reminds me of where the mind-body connection was 30 years ago. Doctors would flatly dismiss that stress was connected to illness, for example. Mind boggling and I remember thinking how absurd it was at that time.

    November 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    • Ha! Right you are. Now we can prove it. 🙂

      November 13, 2010 at 12:50 pm

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  9. Reading this, you are me, except I was diagnosed at 35 with breast cancer and have gone through it all, mastectomy and chemo included. And yes, I got mad. Years of thinking I was healthy, and I was: eating well, drinking water, sleeping well, exercising, reducing stress. But I heated platic in the microwave, I sprayed my lawn with pesticides, I used cosmetics and lotions and never went in the sun for that good vitamin D. Now two years later, I’m trying something new. I do believe there are things I can control, but I also believe some of us are more prone to cancer than others. Why does a man spend years drinking and smoking and eating crap and never get it? Why, if estrogen feeds cancer does the risk go up after menopause? Anyway, good blog. I’ve had many of your thought processes. My new things is less grains and sugar. Much less.

    December 15, 2010 at 11:30 am

    • Welcome, Angele, and thanks for commenting! My recent experience gives me just a tiny hint of understanding for all you’ve been through — anger included. It makes me furious to think how many people out there work hard to do all the “right” things (according to conventional wisdom), and they end up ruining their health because the advice they’ve received is dead wrong. (Sunscreen-slathering-and-whole-grain-swilling-ex-vegan here. Sigh.) I do agree with you, though, that some of the factors at play are beyond our control, regardless of whose advice we follow — but we can still better our odds. Best wishes to you!

      December 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

  10. Tom

    The fact that Keith Richards is alive proves that there are many things about the human body that we still don’t understand!!!
    Rock on, Keith!!!!

    December 16, 2010 at 4:29 pm

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