An Integrative Approach for Breast Health and Early Cancer Detection: Local health practitioners offer insights on thermography, mammograms and other proactive tools.
Apr 29, 2015 08:47AM
● By Linda Sechrist
No one can dispute that prevention and the early detection of breast cancer are saving lives. What is debatable is the mammogram as the only medical standard of care upon which the majority of medical care providers rely for early detection. A more integrative approach includes thermography and vital advice regarding how diet and lifestyle changes are essential to prevention, recovery and even the reversal of breast cancer.
Thermography, a diagnostic screening procedure that focuses on abnormalities in the physical or anatomical structure within the breast, is unlikely to be embraced by the entire medical community until the standard of care includes it. Prescribing anything other than the medical best practice puts doctors at risk for malpractice. With the present lack of standardization and absence of large, randomized trials that result in evidence-based criteria, critics consider digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI) as pseudoscience, and insurance providers deem it medically unnecessary, discounting any beneficial impact that it may have on health outcomes. Another major obstacle is that DITI is missing from the curriculum of medical schools, which means that doctors know little about it.
Building a New Local Paradigm
Helping to shift the breast screening paradigm to a more integrative and comprehensive approach are local, functional medical practitioners such as Dr. Pamela Hughes, owner of the Hughes Center for Functional Medicine, in Naples, and her colleague, Dr. Carol Roberts; Dr. Zorayda Torres, owner of Upstream MD, in Bonita Springs; Kimberly Lemons, CCT, owner of Suncoast Thermal Imaging, in Cape Coral; Graydon Snow, AP, owner of Axis Natural Medicine, in Fort Myers; and Terri Evans, AP, owner of Tae Health Aging; and Taryn Kean, CCT Level III, owner of Southwest Thermal Imaging, in Bonita Springs. These savvy experts offer insights into preventive approaches, as well as the present standard of care that doctors and insurance providers abide by.
For patients and doctors such as Roberts, Torres, Evans and Snow, who are concerned about the potential harm of mammography’s repeated radiation exposure and breast compression, integration can’t happen fast enough. Sensing a need to protect a woman’s most sensitive body parts, these experts have had their instincts confirmed. The National Cancer Institute has noted potential harms due to radiation exposure, and a 2006 study published in the British Journal of Radiobiology states that the type of radiation used in X-ray-based screenings is more carcinogenic than previously believed.
An Integrative Approach for Better Odds
According to Roberts, an integrative thermography/mammography approach can result in 98 percent accuracy in diagnosis, whereas either screening alone results in only 85 percent accuracy. Roberts, who has only had one mammogram in her lifetime, sees thermography as a commonsense option. “It doesn’t matter what I believe, because like all doctors who are trained to order mammograms, I am constrained by the standard of care,” says Roberts, who offers patients the information they need to make their own decision. This includes guidelines for improving diet and lifestyle.
Inhibiting AromataseWhen a patient refuses mammograms or wants to stop getting annual mammograms and they are not at high risk, Torres may recommend a DITI screening. “More importantly, I advise them about preventive measures such as how to inhibit aromatase, an enzyme in the body that converts testosterone and other androgens into the female hormone estrogen. Aromatase has been found at higher levels in breast cancer tissue than in normal breast tissue,” explains Torres.
Certain foods inhibit aromatase activity: cruciferous vegetables, celery, red wine, white button mushrooms, oysters, garlic, onions and healthy fat-rich foods such as coconut oil, avocados and extra virgin olive oil. Chamomile and antioxidant-rich herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary and turmeric are also useful. Additional inhibitors are chlorophyll and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and fermented soy, apple cider vinegar and kombucha. “Diet and other lifestyle changes can diminish aromatase levels, reducing the risk of breast cancer. Being proactive is more logical than being diligent about breast screening and hoping for normal results,” says Torres.
Whole Body Thermography
Hughes feels conflicted about DITI for breast screening. However, she does appreciate the benefits it offers for detection of inflammation in other parts of the body. “A patient recently came to me with the results of her whole body thermogram. Fortunately, the abnormality is likely the detection of the earliest stage of cancer,” says Hughes.
DITI as a Monitoring Tool for Whole Body HealthSnow is a fan of whole body thermography for similar reasons. “It’s a beneficial tool to monitor physical injuries, as well as back, neck and joint pain, in addition to fibromyalgia, stroke screening, TMJ, digestive disorders, spinal dysfunction and cardiovascular changes. It is helpful for investigating what prevents a patient from responding to treatment or for when an MRI or X-ray hasn’t indicated a problem. More importantly, it’s a great tool for a proactive approach to wellness and healthcare,” she remarks.
Hughes is skeptical about recommending only DITI. “Thermography’s specificity is lower than mammography in the detection of small and early breast cancers. Adhering to the recommendations by the American Cancer Society and the Society of Breast Imaging, she notes that neither endorses it. “For patients who do not want radiation and pain, DITI is a reasonable alternative,” says Hughes. “However, women must be aware of the 17 percent chance of missing a small, early cancer. Studies I have read conclude that when used alone, thermography is not more effective than mammography, but rather a good adjunct.”Kean confirms that 17 percent of cancers, including encapsulated tumors and existing slow-growing pathologies, are thermograpically silent. “In DITI, doctors trained to read the images are looking for angiogenesis activity, new blood vessels formed to create a nutrient supply for a developing tumor. Thermography detects inflammation, vascular patterns, lymph changes (congestion or activity), and hormonal activity associated with estrogen dominance. In other words, it tells a patient’s physician where in the body to begin additional testing or treatments. This is what it did for Dr. Hughes’ patient,” explains Kean. “A body adapts to a very slow-growing tumor, which means physiological changes from scan to scan may not be visible. All women, not just those who are high-risk, should do a DITI annually, as well as some form of structural testing. They all have their strengths and weaknesses,” clarifies Kean, who gets regular referrals from local physicians as well as from Snow and Evans.
Better Treatment and Wellness Plans
Evans’ Magnify Your Health Program focuses on wellness and prevention. “The subtle imbalances, stagnation and inflammation that I see in digital imaging results enable me to be very specific with my treatment and patient wellness plans. I consider my patients who use this tool as prevention pioneers who are taking control of their health,” remarks Evans.
Antiogenic-Inhibiting Foods as Medicine
Generally, by the time a mammogram detects something, it’s been growing silently for five to eight years. Thermography detects changes earlier, giving women the opportunity to be proactive by reducing stress, getting more sleep, balancing hormone levels and including antiogenic-inhibiting foods such as red grapes, strawberries, green tea, kale, turmeric, cherries, nutmeg, artichokes, parsley, garlic, tomatoes and Maitake mushrooms in their diet.
Assess Hormone Levels
When Lemons was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, she had a lumpectomy, refused chemotherapy and radiation and went looking for a naturopathic doctor that specialized in nutrition. “I wanted to know why I had breast cancer,” she recalls. After many blood tests, Lemons was told that her oestradiol (estrogen) level was extremely high. “Studies, such as those now published at PubMed.gov show that this condition in premenopausal women is positively associated with breast cancer risk. While I believe that blood endogenous hormone levels should be assessed by healthcare providers, they aren’t,” advises Lemons. Her full recovery included taking Protocel, a unique type of liquid formulation purported to work on a cellular level to make cancer cells fall apart, eating a healthy diet, eliminating antiperspirant deodorant and tight, underwire bras. She continues to take vitamin D3 and selenium and regularly uses lymph drainage massage.
With risk factors that are modifiable by individuals, the future of breast cancer prevention and treatment puts the patient in the driver’s seat. Consider working with a professional that is open to thermography and identifying risk factors, as well as to developing a customized strategy and long-term solutions that can result in a significantly lower risk of developing cancer.
Axis Natural Medicine, 7680 Cambridge Manor Pl., Ste. 100, Fort Myers; 239-288-0900. AxisNaturalMedicine.com.
Hughes Center for Functional Medicine, 800 Goodlette Rd. N., Ste. 270, Naples; 239-649-7400. HughesCenterNaples.com.
Suncoast Thermal Imaging, 308 S.E. 43rd Lane, Cape Coral; 239-540-1002. MediTherm.com, [email protected].
Southwest Medical Thermal Imaging, 9148 Bonita Beach Rd., Ste. 202, Bonita Springs; 239-949-2011. ThermalClinic.com.
Tae Healthy Aging Center, 11983 Tamiami Tr. N., 100A, Naples; 239-430-6800.
UpstreamMD, 27499 Riverview Center Blvd., Ste. 255, Bonita Springs; 239-444-5636. UpstreamMD.com.