Before Early Detection
Perhaps the greatest advances made in cancer research over since Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971 have been in the realm of “early detection.” This is a good thing. The earlier a cancer is detected, the better the patient’s chances of survival.
But what if we could detect a pre-cancerous state? What if we could see the body setting itself up for cancer before — even years before — a tumor grew large enough for detection by mammography or physical exam?
As it happens, we can.
Medical infrared imaging, or thermography, measures body temperature to detect locations of excessive heat, which is the earliest sign of an impending disease state.
[Note: I’ve researched this mostly in the context of breast cancer, thanks to my recent experience, so I’ll speak in that context here, but it’s my understanding that thermography can also be useful in detecting and tracking other types of cancers.]
Most people are familiar with the leading theory that cancer develops when a faulty cell division results in a cell with altered DNA, which then spreads unchecked. Sometimes. Such replication errors occur thousands of times in all humans, but most of us (the lifetime statistic is 2 of 3) don’t get cancer because our immune systems kill or contain the rogue cells.
The immune system’s attack results in inflammation, just as you’d see on your skin when your body is fighting infection in a wound, and the byproduct is heat. Thermography can detect this heat, identifying inflammation that is invisible from the outside but serves as an early warning: Change something! Reduce toxin load! Support immune function! This is the time for action!
When abnormal cells begin to overcome the immune system’s efforts, they essentially confuse the white blood cells, including natural killer (NK) cells, so they don’t even try to do their jobs. This sets up the body for stage 2 of cancer’s attack: angiogenesis.
Angiogenesis is a normal process of building and repairing blood vessels. Normally, the body builds the needed vessels, then angiogenesis stops. Cancer, however, hijacks this process and turns it to its own advantage. Very early in the disease process, well before a lump can be detected, thermography is able to “see” the abnormal formation of excessive, new blood vessels leading to the potential cancer site, bringing it food.
Once again, this is a phase at which many cancers can be halted through lifestyle changes alone. No chemo, no surgery, no radiation. (Use your heads, people — work with your doctors. But remember, most doctors won’t “see” the gathering clouds of disease at this point, so your preventative treatment may be up to you.)
Nearly every piece I read on the topic of thermography noted two things: 1) Thermography complements mammography but does not replace it; and 2) Thermography is safer and more accurate than mammography.
Draw your own conclusions.
I’ll say this, though — I, personally, am suspicious of mammography. Not only does it miss a lot of cancers (about 20% of them), but it subjects the tissue to radiation, a known carcinogen whose effects are cumulative over a lifetime. Some people also worry that compression of abnormal cells may contribute to their ability to spread.
Here are a few, fun facts for those of you who want to give thermography a try:
- Your medical insurance probably won’t cover the scan. Fortunately, at $150-250, it’s not terribly expensive.
- Medical infrared cameras and certified thermographers are few and far between. You might have to take a long drive, like I did. It was worth it. See the links below for websites that include lists of certified thermographers.
- All thermography is not the same! My first scan (the alarming one) was done with a device made by Eidam Diagnostics Corporation. The Contact Regulation Thermography (CRT) device measures skin temperature at 119 points. You then get a computer-generated report that looks like this (scroll down to page 4). Even the naturopath who took my readings could scarcely interpret the thing! My second scan (the reassuring one) was done using an infrared camera (which costs roughly 35 times as much as the CRT device) and gave me actual pictures like these, from which even an amateur can get the jist of the results. The point is, find a thermographer with extensive experience and good equipment!
- Finally, note that, like mammography or ultrasound, thermography does not diagnose cancer, but rather detects suspicious changes. If an existing cancer is suspected, biopsy (or possibly a BT blood test) is necessary.
In my view, one of the greatest values of thermography is that it can detect a pre-cancerous state at a point where lifestyle changes can often halt the disease in its tracks. Please see the links below for information from the experts, and stay tuned for upcoming posts regarding those all-important “lifestyle changes” that any of us can choose to make.
[More posts in this cancer prevention series: Cancer for a Fortnight, In the Beginning: The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent Inflammation, Supply Lines: The Importance of Angiogenesis, and Short-Circuit: Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally. See also Crap for the Cure.]
What is Thermography? by Ingrid Edstrom, CFNP
Breast Thermography with sample infrared images by Dr. William Amalu
More thermography basics by Dr. Jeremy Kaslow
My Food, My Medicine: black coffee; matcha green tea; salad: spinach, red leaf lettuce, carrot, red cabbage, red onion, salmon; dressing: fish oil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, turmeric, black pepper, garlic, oregano; roasted vegetables: turnip, beetroot, cauliflower, broccoli, yellow onion, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme; red grapes; coconut cream concentrate; lamb meatballs in marinara: ground lamb, egg, oregano, basil, thyme, red pepper, garlic, yellow onion, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, olive oil, salt; baked spaghetti squash; lavender mint tea.
Workout: 5x rotation of back squats, renegade rows, bench presses, and dips.