More than Skin Deep
When it comes to breast health, there are now a number of ways to document changes in breast tissue. These include mammograms (x-ray), computed tomography scans (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasounds, infrared camera and thermometry.
Infrared thermography, one example of infrared imaging science, is an image snippet of any thermal abnormalities in our bodies that can indicate injury, disease or the progression potential toward an issue. How can mapping our skin’s temperature offer a glimpse into our bodies’ inner workings? What can it tell us? Is it reliable? Yes, in fact the scientific imaging can help physicians with diagnosis, prognosis, and rehabilitation or lifestyle change optimization.
Rachel Mazzarelli, the owner of the multi-location, Connecticut-based Whole Health LLC and a certified clinical thermographer, emphasizes that thermography is not a replacement for getting a mammogram but rather an alternative view. Mammograms and ultrasounds are tests of structure, such as looking for calcification, a mass or a cyst, she explains. However, it can take up to 8-12 years for something to show up on mammograms, whereas a thermogram, a test of physiology, could sense a shift in the second year. Overall, health and lifestyle are important pieces for breast health while genetics play a smaller role, Mazzarelli continues. With thermograms, patients feel encouraged and competent when they see the dietary and lifestyle changes they are making reflected in the imaging. On the question of accuracy, she points to an analysis done by the American College of Clinical Thermography. Of the close to 160,000 thermograms reviewed, around 90 percent were accurate with very few being false positives. This figure is substantially better when compared to the 50 to 60 percent chance of false positives quoted for those that have had 10 or more annual mammograms, according to 2011 and 2012 reviews published in the Lancet and Annals of Internal Medicine.
Deborah McIntosh, CCT, agrees with the use of thermography as an “early warning system”. She is the owner of Norwalk-based Alba Thermal Imaging, LLC, a certified clinical thermographer and a massage therapist. With clients returning annually for the 12 years she has been practicing thermography, McIntosh has seen how some have made dietary changes, worked with an herbalist or naturopath, and adapted to a healthier lifestyle. These changes have been reflected in the follow-up imaging with some showing an arrest of disease progression or diminishing warning signs of an issue. Some of McIntosh’s clients with cancer utilize the imaging to find out how their allopathic treatments are working. McIntosh had one client who came every six months; because of that frequency, they saw a quick change in heat patterns that, when further investigated by the client’s physician, was shown to be a very rare form of uterine cancer. Such a story exemplifies how thermograms can be used to show physicians when a potential problem may be brewing.
In order to prepare for the appointment, McIntosh asks her patients to not have any bodywork done on the day of the test; refrain from having any hot drinks or smoking two hours prior; use no deodorant, lotions or ointments on the areas being imaged; and abstain from shaving underarms or sunbathing that day.
What happens once the images are taken? Thermal images are uploaded to a network of board-certified thermologists who then interprets the scan and sends a report back to her. That report is then shared with McIntosh’s patient and possibly the patient’s physicians.
Digital infrared thermal imaging, or thermograms, work by converting infrared radiation emanating from the surface of the skin into electrical charges that are translated into visual graphs mapping the body temperatures on a screen for physicians to interpret. In regulation thermometry, a high-tech thermometer does a whole-body scan and measures the temperature of 116 body points, including ones in the breast, thyroid, digestive system and brain. This enables the practitioner to read information about the functional capacity of the body and its underlying organ systems, explains Dr. Gary Gruber, a naturopathic physician and the owner of Family and Environmental Medicine, which has locations in New Canaan and Stamford. In the case of breast health, regulation thermography also looks at a dozen criteria that can change breast tissue. By doing so, the scan can provide clues as to underlying influences that are the root cause for the diseased tissue; this can include inflammation, toxic overload, lymphatic drainage issues and infections, Gruber expands.
“One of the things that regulation thermography has shown over the years are patterns of dysfunction—or algorithms almost,” Gruber says. He gives an example of one patient who came to him last year showing a pattern of susceptibility toward a degenerative disease after an analysis through regulation thermography. Utilizing different tools—such as bike exercises with oxygen therapy, dietary changes, complex homeopathic remedies and supplements—they were able to reduce her susceptibility to the degenerative disease.
“If you are overwhelmed by toxins, stress, viruses and bacteria, you have an overloaded and dysfunctioning immune system, which then adds on another stressor. For example, we might find out a patient is not detoxing well, which then gives us a clue as to what other tests to do—such as genomic or nutritional—and thereby uncovering patterns of information that you cannot get from infrared alone,” Gruber says. “This is why I am so excited about doing regulation thermography. We are looking at how the body is talking to itself.” He goes on to explain that, while infrared uncovers inflammation in the tissues—an important piece of breast health—it can’t tell if it is a virus or another type of infection causing the issue. With regulation thermography, the “why” is more evident through patterns for viral loads, chronic lymphatic conditions, changes of circulation to the head and more.
Practitioners of both types of thermography recommend a scan once a year or every six months if there is a particular issue. The scans can look into how the body is communicating with itself; if the immune system, hormones or other systems are out of balance, we experience symptoms. Thermography eavesdrops on that conversation to see what is throwing the communication out of balance, Gruber explains.
Ariana Rawls Fine is editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County/Housatonic Valley and Natural Awakenings New Haven/Middlesex Counties. She resides in Stratford with her family.
Deborah McIntosh, CCT • Alba Thermal Imaging, LLC
71 East Ave, Ste D, Norwalk
SOPHIA Natural Health Center
31 Old Rte 7, Brookfield
Gary Gruber, ND • Family and Environmental Medicine
68 Old Stamford Rd, New Canaan • 203-966-6360
111 High Ridge Rd, Stamford •203-539-1149
Rachel Mazzarelli • Whole Health Thermography
Mobile locations in Stamford, Fairfield, Norwalk, Milford, Southbury and Bethel, as well as New York locations in Northport, Bellmore, Katonah and Carmel