If you’ve ever wondered about alternatives to mammograms for breast diagnostics, be sure to listen in as I interview Kristen Barry. We talk about how thermography provides an alternative to mammograms without radiation and that can identify issues before a tumor is formed.
If you’ve only considered thermography for breast health, Kristen explains how the technology can be used for a wide range of diagnoses to find early signs of inflammation that allow you to make lifestyle changes to prevent long-term disease.
Listen to My Interview with Kristen Barry of Space Coast Thermography
Links and Images from My Interview with Kristen Barry of Space Coast Thermography
Link to the Space Coast Thermography website where you can get more information on the science of thermography and schedule your appointment. https://www.spacecoastthermography.com/
Takeaways from My Interview with Kristen Barry of Space Coast Thermography
While I had heard about thermography as a non-invasive, no-radiation diagnostic for breast health, I didn’t truly understand how it worked. Learning that it shows inflammation within the body, shows that it can detect issues that go beyond breast health.
Kristen’s explanation of a doctor evaluating dense breast tissue versus regular fatty breast tissue painted a perfect picture to me of why mammograms are inconclusive for dense breast tissue or fibrocystic breasts. Something I’ve had since my early 20’s, and never fully understood, until now.
Complete Transcript of My Interview with Kristen Barry of Space Coast Thermography
Kim: 00:01 You’re listening to Space Coast Stories, a podcast with interviews and stories from people and businesses on Florida’s Space Coast. I’m your host, Kim Shivler. Thanks for joining me.
Kim: 00:16 Hey everybody on the Space Coast. Welcome back. I’m your host Kim Shivler and this is Space Coast Stories. Today I’m interviewing Kristen Barry about thermography. Now if you’ve never heard of thermography, you’ve got a lot to learn. We’ve got a lot to learn and especially the ladies, this is something that all of us should know about and she would consider as probably part of our health plan.
Kim: 00:43 Welcome Kristen.
Kristen: 00:44 Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Kim: 00:46 So let’s get right to it. What is thermography?
Kristen: 00:50 Well, thermography is a noninvasive, um, radiation free and compression free thermal imaging tool that is looking at your physiology. So when you have inflammation, disease or other issues within your body, your sympathetic nervous system reflects those issues out to the layers of your skin. And the thermal camera is able to detect and monitor these issues going on.
Kim: 01:21 So thermal, just, just to make sure that we’re all on the same page means heat or temperature, correct?
Kristen: 01:26 Correct. So it’s a thermal camera. And so it’s measuring and mapping the heat index that’s coming off on the top five millimeters of your skin. And it’s looking at your physiology rather than structure. So rather than like a mammogram and an ultrasound, if you’re looking at breast screenings, those things are looking at disease. They’re looking for tumors, solid tumors that are at least one centimeter in size or larger. Um, where the thermal camera is looking at the physiology. It’s looking at the heat, it’s looking at the blood flow that can indicate inflammation and issues going on within the body. And it can show these issues going on years before giving you an early warning sign before it turns into that solid tumor.
Kim: 02:20 So in this case, you don’t have to wait until you have a tumor of a certain size in order to, in order to detect an issue correct.
Kristen: 02:30 That’s the great thing about thermography is that it is looking at your own physiology. So everybody’s images are like taking a fingerprint, everybody’s are unique to their own body and you’re seeing different warning signs. The inflammation that I talked about, which leads to disease and other issues. These are all warning signs and you can see these things years before it may turn into a solid tumor or you know, a significant, uh, issue that other imaging tools would be able to then detect.
Kim: 03:08 I happen to be a woman who has the dense breasts, the benign fibrocystic. And so I’ve always had to have both the mammogram and then an ultrasound because they can’t really see everything with just the mammogram. How does this work with someone like me?
Kristen: 03:28 That’s a great question. Because with dense breast tissue, which 50% of women have dense breast tissue, um, fiber, cystic breasts as well as implants, these things make mammograms inconclusive.
Kristen: 03:42 Um, they actually made it a law in July of 2018 in the State of Florida that if you have dense breast tissue, the doctor has to let you know that, that, that you have the dense breast tissue and that that makes mammograms inconclusive, which is why after a mammogram they’ll then send you for an ultrasound because the mammogram is not able to see what is going on through dense breast tissue. Um, the best way that I can describe it is if you had two glasses and you filled one with water and you filled one with milk and you dropped a penny in each glass, that penny is a tumor, um, and that liquid is your, your breast tissue. So a glass of water would be normal fatty breast tissue. So if a radiologist is looking through that glass of water to try to find that penny or that tumor, he’s able to see pretty good.
Kristen: 04:33 Um, however, if he’s looking through that glass of milk, he’s having a difficult time finding that penny. And that’s what it’s like having dense breast tissue and trying to find a tumor. So they did make it a law. Um, Florida finally joined I think 32 other states who’ve already had it on as a law that they have to start telling women if they have dense breast tissue and that it makes mammograms inconclusive. Thermography does not lose the sensitivity if a woman has dense breast tissue or five or cystic breasts or like I said, implants, there is no loss in sensitivity. It can detect issues going on even if you have dense breast tissue, which makes it great source for women to use in order to detect the early warning signs. And that’s why mammograms, a lot of times will mask tumors or hide tumors.
Kristen: 05:23 And then women are finding these tumors when they’re very large or they’re finding them on their own, not through any kind of imaging tool. And a lot of times they’ve already metastasized by then.
Kim: 05:35 And there’s also the situation with radiation. A lot of people get concerned with mammograms about radiation, but this doesn’t have radiation, correct?
Kristen: 05:43 Correct. It is noninvasive. There is absolutely no radiation. There is no compression. As we know, radiation can actually mutate cells. Um, and then the compression of mammogram can actually spread cancer cells and thermography does not do that. It’s a very simple process. We use a thermal camera and the patients simply after they come in, they acclimate to the temperature of the room, which is very important. We follow strict protocols at Space Coast Thermography and one of the things that we do is we make sure that you’re acclimated to a room temperature between 18 and 23 degrees Celsius, which they’ve done research and found that those are the best images are done with that temperature.
Kristen: 06:30 Um, so after you acclimate, you will get your images taken. You’re standing up in front of a thermal camera, nothing touches you. And there is no radiation and no compression.
Kim: 06:40 Well that’s nice because for any of you who have had mammograms, you know that it feels like you have just been squished. I think, uh, if anyone remembers Erma Bombeck, she had some great quotes about what it was like to get your boobs pressed between those mammogram plates, not having to go through that. I’m all for that. You mentioned on the Mammogram side, it’s read by the radiologist since this is different, who would be reading it and what are they looking for as they read it?
Kristen: 07:08 We currently have a board certified MD pathologist. His name is Doctor Jay Mead. He has been reading thermography images and writing reports for over 18 years. He’s also married to a naturopathic doctor, which I like.
Kristen: 07:25 He’s very aware of holistic natural means to heal. He has done lots of research on hormone issues. He actually owns his own lab and also a women’s breast health issues. He’s very published, has spoken across the country, so he is who does our readings presently. We send all of our images through a secure site. We upload them to him. He looks at the images and it not only looks at the breasts, but he also comments on hormone imbalances. If there’s any issues or a thermographic response from the thyroid, if there’s any lymphatic congestion seen down the Axilla or side areas. If there is a certain level of fiber, cystic activity within the breasts and then he will rate each breast on a scale, a standardized scale from a TH1 to a TH5 TH simply means thermal because it’s a thermal imaging system, one to five one and two are normal, non suspicious and one is just a little more vascular than the other.
Kristen: 08:32 If you’re a TH3 that puts you in a mild, a range of suspicion that something could be happening. About 95% of TH3 is normal. However, 5% may be the very earliest signs that something is starting to form a TH4 you’re getting into a moderate level of suspicion and a TH5 you’re getting into a high level of suspicion that something may be starting to place, but the great thing about thermography is that these are warning signs that are taking place and hopefully warning you years before it’s turning into a solid tumor and you’ve got time. It’s giving a woman time to make changes, changes in lifestyle diet. It may be hormonal imbalances that need to get under control. It may be a deficiency in vitamin D and iodine deficiency. There’s different things that you can do to improve your breast health and then have those numbers decrease at the point.
Kim: 09:30 If someone comes in and they are a TH5, what would the next step be? Do we need to go to another test to make sure that it’s not an early sign? We really are possibly have cancer or something like that? Where would we go from there?
Kristen: 09:44 If somebody comes out TH5 sometimes even a TH4 it is a lot personal choice. We do recommend that they have another form of of screening. Some people will go ahead and do that. Others will say, you know, they want to talk to their doctor. There’s a lot of times they have a naturopathic doctor, a holistic practitioner or somebody that they want to meet with. They want to try some things first and then come back in a few months to see if they’re making changes on their own. But people do go and a lot of times you know we recommend an ultrasound because there is no radiation and we do have several of the TH5, uh, women will make an appointment and have that ultrasound done.
Kristen: 10:26 The ultrasound we’re hoping shows nothing because again a thermography is a finding issues years before it gets to the point where it can be seen on mammogram or ultrasound. So the hope is that they, you can’t see anything yet on the ultrasound and that’s a good sign. And then we still want you to make some of these changes. Lifestyle changes have, you know, test some of these other things. Um, it may be blood work for, like I said, vitamin D or iodine or hormone issues and then come back when the report comes back. If you’re in the non suspicious range, the TH1 TH2 the doctor will typically say, just come back in a year for regular routine screenings. If it’s a TH3 going into a TH4, he’s probably going to recommend you come back at the six month mark. Just one more time within that first year for a followup, a closer followup to see if your remaining at that number or if you’re going up or if you’re decreasing back down to the normal non suspicious range.
Kristen: 11:26 If you’re staying at TH3, sometimes that’s just your normal physiology. Sometimes that’s just the way your, your body is made up. If you’re a TH5 we do highly recommend going ahead and having that extra screening, that ultrasound done. Just to be sure to peace of mind. Um, and we have actually had a couple of people that have had that ultrasound and the ultrasound has actually even shown something. So there was actual activity. One person that I can think of in particular, we had a 32 year old female who came in. She had felt just something wasn’t right, thought she was feeling a lump in her breast. Um, she came out a TH5 on that one side. She did go ahead and have an ultrasound and the ultrasound showed that there was activity in that same area. They did recommend a biopsy, which she did not feel comfortable doing.
Kristen: 12:10 She decided to increase her vitamin D after she got that tested and found out she was deficient, started on iodine, started taking some herbs with an herbalist and did have a doctor following her, came back in three months and her number, dropped to a TH4. So what she was doing was working. So she was just planning on continuing with that protocol that she was doing rather than jumping into some invasive testing or treatment.
Kim: 12:34 As you’re talking about this, I hear you talking about a lot of alternative methods for approaching whatever they find. Uh, you mentioned that your doctor who does the screening, his wife’s a naturopath and yet, this is not a naturopathic medicine that’s out there. This is an FDA approved treatment or diagnostic, I should stay correct.
Kristen: 12:58 Breast thermography was FDA approved in 1982 there’s been hundreds of studies done on thermography using thousands of different women and some of the studies even include women that were followed for up to 25 years.
Kristen: 13:12 So there is a lot of research on thermography and yes, it’s been FDA approved since 1982 and does insurance cover it? I know that’s what part of the audience is asking. Yes. That that is a very popular question that we get. Um, unfortunately most insurances do not cover thermography at this time. There are a few that are starting to get on board, um, and offer different policies. Sometimes, uh, the policies don’t necessarily say they cover thermography, but they cover preventative medicine. And so if you say I went and had a thermography scan, their policy, we’ll pay you back a certain amount of money for doing preventative things. I know that Cigna, an AFLAC or carrying certain policies at this time, but we do work closely with a nonprofit agency. It’s called the United Breast Cancer Foundation. There is a link to their breast screening grant program on our website and it’s a very simple process.
Kristen: 14:11 They ask for $5, it’s a $5 pay it forward donation that goes directly into their grant funding pool of money. And then they give you right on the line and application to fill out. It’s a simple application. You fill it out online and submit it. And within three business days they get back to you letting you know if you’ve been approved for the grant funding and how much they’ve approved you for. They approve up to $150 toward the breast screenings and 100% of the women that have applied through Space Coast Thermography through the United Breast Cancer Foundation have been approved from our range has ranged from $50 up to the full one 50. Our average right now $122, I would say the majority of the women that apply are receiving between a hundred and $150. A lot of them are receiving the full $150. It is not based solely on income.
Kristen: 15:02 This nonprofit truly wants to help women prevent getting breast cancer and so they want women to have screenings done. So, um, even if you have a fairly decent income, um, but you haven’t been screened in years, you, you don’t want the radiation of mammograms, so you just haven’t been going. Um, you have a family history of breast cancer and so you’ve been sort of scared or put off from having the screening because you’re afraid to find out what’s going on. There’s lots of different reasons. I’m not sure of their exact calculation or how they come up with the amount, but they are very good. They get right back to you. They approve, like I said, 100% of the women that that have applied and most of them are getting the maximum amount. And then we provide them with an invoice. They mail that invoice into the United Breast Cancer Foundation after their appointment and the check gets mail directly back to them.
Kim: 15:55 And how much is the service? How much is the treatment for the diagnostic, I should say for someone coming into your office?
Kristen: 16:02 We basically do three different types of services. Um, and again, all of our services and the details of what they include are listed on our website. Our breast screening is the most popular service that we offer. It includes seven to nine images of the breast, which like I said, the doctor will comment on things like thyroid, lymphatic congestion, and a hormonal imbalances as well as issues within the breasts and that is $180 so if the grant funding, if you were to get the Max of one 50 it’s minimal out of pocket. We also offer a pretty popular a service called a women’s health study and that includes three images of the abdomen as well as the seven to nine images of the breasts, the neck and thyroid, three images of the face, the upper back and the full spine.
Kristen: 16:45 And that costs $330 and then we also offered full body screenings if anyone is interested in that, that’s 450 the United Breast Cancer Foundation Grant Fund money can be used for any of those services because we do include the breast images in all three of those services.
Kim: 17:02 Great. And if I sign up for this, say I want to do is let’s just stick with the breast scan and then initially what do I need to plan for? How long is it going to take me in your office? How long does it take me to get the results because, some of us are kind of nervous after we’ve had a task to hear the feedback.
Kristen: 17:19 All right, well before you even have the exam, um, once we schedule the appointment, I send out a intake form that’s a simple intake form to find out history and what’s going on with you in the breast or throughout the rest of the body if you’re having other imaging done.
Kristen: 17:36 And I also send out what I call the patient preparation protocols. And this is very important. We follow very strict protocols. And so there’s certain things in regards to breast screening. There’s certain things that you can and can’t do before your appointment when you come to the appointment. Um, whatever area you’re having image. So if it’s the breast screening from, you know, the Chin to below the breasts, you’re not allowed to have any lotions, uh, deodorant creams, um, put on that area because it can block the skin and the heat that’s coming off, which is what we’re imaging. There’s also things, protocols like not taking a hot shower within one hour of the appointment, not drinking hot beverages within an hour of the appointment, not vigorously exercising before the appointment. Anything that can really raise your body temperature. We also want to make sure you don’t have a temperature over a hundred so if you have a fever or you’re sick, we ask you to reschedule or not come in because it can affect the images.
Kristen: 18:31 There’s a whole list that I send out with the patient preparation instructions. Once you come to the appointment, the appointment only takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes from start to finish. Depending on what you’re having done, you will come into the office and fill out a simple consent to have the scan done and a HIPAA form saying that we will not disclose your images or report to anyone other than you and then we have you change into a gown and we have you acclimate to that temperature of the room. We need to make sure that your body is cooled to the temperature. We make sure that there is no incandescent lights in the room. We, during that time I will go through all of the paperwork with you so it’s not like you’re just sitting in an empty room for 15 minutes. We sit and discuss, you know, what issues you’re having and look at your background history and we write on a little piece of paper, you know, little marks all over the outlined image so that the doctor knows exactly what’s going on with you and if you’re having any issues at the time and then the camera gets calibrated and we take your images and then we have you get dressed and come back into a different room where we sit and I can answer any questions that you have and we check you out.
Kristen: 19:38 Um, and like I said, the process is very simple for the breast screenings. You only have to undress from the waist up. You do have a gown on for the majority of the acclimation time. You do take the gown off for the last five minutes to make sure everything is cooled off. And then you obviously have it off for your images. But it’s a very simple process and there’s nothing that is is touching you and it’s just myself and the patient in the room. And then how long does it take the doctor to get back to US afterwards? We upload the images the day of your screening and the doctor has between 24 and 72 hours. He gets the reports back to us. Most of the time we get them back same day, next day. Occasionally it may take two to three days depending on how busy the doctor is at the time.
Kim: 20:22 That makes sense. And you know it’s funny, I’ve heard about breast thermography for a long time. This is not anything new. As you said, it’s been approved since 1982 what I didn’t understand though, how it worked. I’ve seen it listed in places, but I didn’t understand how it worked and what interests me as you mentioned that what it’s actually looking at is inflammation and it seems like every medical report I listened to now is really pointing to that inflammation is the root cause of everything that goes wrong with us. So it sounds to me like this can really put you on a path to staying well or getting back to well overall and not just your breast, but I, you know, heart and everything else correct. Inflammation is sort of the root cause of everything and thermography is able to detect and monitor this inflammation within your body.
Kristen: 21:15 Um, it has your sympathetic nervous system reflects the inflammation issues, any disease that could be a starting or already going on within your body. And so it’s catching things at an early stage and it’s showing you where the inflammation is and what is going on so that you have a chance to take control and be preventative to help stop and reverse what is going on.
Kim: 21:39 If you’re someone who’s overstressed, anxious, that type of thing. We see a lot of that these days. A lot of times your sympathetic and your parasympathetic nervous system are out of whack. Would that affect the test and negatively if it’s reading some of that or does it not affect it at all? No, I mean if you’re anxious and that’s leading to inflammation, which is leading to issues and illness, we’re going to see that because it’s going to see the inflammation.
Kristen: 22:08 But if you come in to have the exam done and you’re nervous about having an exam, you don’t know what to expect. That’s not going to affect your images. I mean, if you’re seeing inflammation and in your breast or something that is looking suspicious, it’s not solely because you were nervous that that’s not going to show up on the exam. One of the things that sets Space Coast Thermography aside from other imaging centers is that we are the only thermography provider in Brevard County that uses the highest resolution camera. We have the latest and greatest technology. There are three different medical grade thermal imaging cameras on the market today. And when you take a picture with a normal camera, that picture is made up of pixels with a thermal camera. Those pixels are temperature readings. And so just like if you take a picture with apple, you know, iPhone four versus an iPhone 10, the 10, which has a better pixel, uh, ability is going to have a clearer picture.
Kristen: 23:10 The same is true with a thermal imaging camera, um, except we, and that has true temperature readings. So it’s going to be clear and give more information to the doctor. Our camera is able to see 307,000 temperature readings, true temperature readings for every image. The lowest level, which is most of the cameras unfortunately being used across the country is 19,000 so it’s a big difference. The 19,000 versus 307,000. The Middle Camera’s about 80,000. And our camera also is the only camera in the state of Florida that the ability to master calibrate before every patient, which instead of sending the camera to the master calibrated every 18 months to two years into the factory, we can do it before every single patient so that you don’t have that thermal drift. It resets it back to where it should be so that those true temperature readings are as true as they can be for the doctor to read it.
Kristen: 24:08 There’s no estimating, no guessing for our camera is taking the most advanced images that are on the market right now.
Kim: 24:15 So it’s this fresh start each time and I was so happy you mentioned the anxious aspect that you know, if you’re one of us, I am one who has that white coat syndrome and you get to a doctor, you know my blood pressure is up every single time it’s taken at a doctor. Whereas if I take that home in two hours, I’m fine. And so I liked it. A lot of times those of us who have that situation, every test we’re going to do, we’re thinking is it going to be thrown because I’m nervous to be here. I’m nervous standing half naked in a room with someone and that it doesn’t do that is a very exciting thing. I think it makes it even more of a test that all of us should have, particularly women.
Kim: 24:57 But you know guys, you get breast cancer, too. That’s something we don’t always talk about. It is something that that does happen. So it sounds to me like a test. Maybe we should all get. Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you definitely want to talk about today? Kristen?
Kristen: 25:16 I just want to, you know, reiterate that breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in women. Um, most people are aware of that. Number one in eight women, I don’t know if everyone is aware that a 23% of those women that are being diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 49. And that’s another reason why thermography is so wonderful as a tool, a screening tool, and to help be preventative because most people that are doing the traditional mammograms or ultrasounds are not starting until age. You know, used to be 40 now they’re recommending 50 because of the radiation.
Kristen: 25:53 And a lot of younger women are getting breast cancer. So if they started earlier monitoring their breast health, being alerted if there’s any red flags and having the time to be proactive that hopefully would decrease those numbers . It’s predicted that there’s going to be over 260,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed this year in the United States and over 40,000 women will die this year from breast cancer. So being truly preventative and proactive in your breast health is our mission, our goal and it’s very important.
Kim: 26:28 Those are some scary numbers and yet looking on the right side, this is a way for us to take control of our health that we really have to be advocates for our own health I find and get out there and take care of ourselves. So tell us where they can find you.
Kristen: 26:45 We are located right in the middle of Brevard County.
Kristen: 26:48 We are in the Suntree area. We’re located on Turner road. It’s seven one two five Turner road. Turner road is a little road that runs off of Suntree Boulevard. Suntree Boulevard connects route one and Wickham road and we’re located in suite 101 and very easy to get to from any area of Brevard County.
Kim: 27:11 And your website, where can they find you there?
Kristen: 27:13 Yup. Our website is Space CoastThermography.com and uh, again on the website there is a lot of information about thermography, about breast thermography. We have information about Doctor Mead, who does our reports for us. There’s also information about the United Breast Cancer Foundation and the grant funding that’s available, information about our services and pricing and we also have the ability to schedule appointments right online.
Kim: 27:43 Great. And as always, everybody, the links to her website as well as more information on the procedure will be at SpaceCoastStories.com I’ll be back next time with another interesting interview.
Kim: 27:57 Thank you so much for being on with me today, Kristen.
Kristen: 28:00 Thank you for having me.
Kim: 28:01 That’s all folks. Bye. Join us next time for another episode of Space Coast Stories. You can find the show notes and other information at SpaceCoastStories.com. The views of the guests on this show are their own and don’t necessarily represent the views of the show owners, host or company. Thanks for listening to Space Coast Stories.