Friday, January 13, 2012

PET scan results - good news all around - straight from Star Trek

Karen had a PET scan this Tuesday.
She was pretty nervous about it as it is a test that will determine if there are any areas of cancers anywhere else in here body.
Let me first share that she did not have any areas of concern which is great news.
Secondly - this test is about as close to the Star Trek Science as I can imagine.

The test is done by injecting a radioactive compound that is tied to a sugar-like molecule into the bloodstream. It is a very low dose of radioactivity and it has a half life of only 4 hours or so.
Nonetheless they needed a full history of the amount of X-rays Karen has had over the last many years to ensure that her total radiation dose does not exceed a safe amount.

Unfortunately I was not able to accompany Karen on this test but her description was very detailed. The radioactive compound comes in a syringe that is safely stored inside a large, lined metal can. I know that this is more for the safety of the workers that work with this every day, but it is still pretty cool.
After they injected it, Karen was placed in a small room with dimmed light. She now had to sit absolutely still for about an hour. No reading, no moving, no music - just her and her thoughts. Wish I could have listened in on those !
This is done to ensure that the radioactive compound is preferentially absorbed in the cells that are the most active - this is typically the cancer cells. If she would move around or watch TV the normal activity of the cells would skew the results.
When the hour was up she was literally strapped to a board to avoid any movement and then put in a machine similar to a CT scanner. This took about 1/2 hour and they did a scan from the knees to her head. I am glad she is not really claustrophobic.

We went to the oncologist the day after to get the results of this test as well as the results from the genetic testing.
The PET scan as mentioned was clean for cancer but the amazing thing is that it identified any areas that have higher than usual cellular activity. So the notes described:

An impacted molar
Slight sinus infection
The incision from the surgery

Now I think that is straight out of a Sci-Fi. Get one scan done and it will tell you (almost) everything that may be wrong.

I am sure this test is not quite recommended as a pure preventive measure though. Even though it is a small dose of radioactivity Karen was told to stay at least 3' away from small children for 24 hours and warned not to fly or use public transportation in the same period. Apparently some of the very sensitive instruments at some airports can detect the radiation from the compound as it breaks down which could be mistaken for someone trying to bring radioactive materials.
So I had a good Daddy Evening with Natalie since Karen couldn't be near her.

Anyway due to Karen still having 2 drains from her surgery and because there were no defined areas of cancer on the scan it was decided to postpone the start of the chemo until the drains were out. So for now she is tentatively scheduled to start on 1/23 with chemo but it may even be pushed to 1/30.

Now tomorrow is a visit with plastic surgeon to remove the stitches and get the expanders "topped off". He will likely not take the drains out yet as they are still drawing quite a bit of liquid out. I know Karen is really looking forward to getting them out though.

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