PET Scan

Posted on June 8th, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

On Thursday I had a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan. This is being used more and more in the monitoring of Multiple Myeloma, so we are keen to see what it comes up with when I go for a consult this week. The scan is also very helpful as a benchmark for comparing future scans to.

The process is fairly easy to get through. I needed to fast from the midnight before the scan. This is because they inject a radioactive glucose into you that needs to be taken up by cells, and this is made more effective if you have fasted. As with my other nuclear scans, the radioactive glucose will be taken up in greater concentration in areas where there is high metabolic activity, such as a cancerous mass or where there has been physical trauma.

Once I arrived at Nuclear Medicine, they put me in bed in a little cubicle. After getting settled and comfortable, a Nurse wheels in a lead-lined thermos on a stand with a needle sticking out of it. This needle is then injected into a catheter that had been placed in my arm earlier. Once injected, they turn down the lights, close the room up and let you rest for 40 minutes or so. During this time you are not allowed to move. Any muscle movement will result in a greater uptake of the glucose and therefore mess with the results.

After the 40 minutes, you have to pee to get rid of the radioactive urine stored up, and then head into the scanning room. The PET scanner looks like an MRI machine, but it doesn’t make the deafening pulses, it just spins around in a similar fashion to a CT and MRI scanner. They scanned from just below my knees to my head that took about 25 minutes. Once again, as with all scans, you have to remain completely still. The whole process is completely painless apart from the expected hunger discomfort. The radioactivity dissipates after 24 hours.


So that was my PET scan experience. We are hopeful that when we see Dr Brad this week, the results are favourable. Although my body is still aching, it ain’t breaking, and my energy is getting better every day. I am driving a little again now and on Wednesday I walked into the studio, which is about 1.2 km.

Earlier that morning, before I had the scan, I had to have my bone strengthening infusion. I met a girl there who I had seen at Chemo Gym earlier in the week. She has lymphoma and had the stem cell transplant about a year ago. Unfortunately, her cancer is back and so she is scheduled in for another stem-cell transplant from a matched unrelated donor (MUD Allogeneic). She was all smiles though. This step is tough.

We were both at an information session a few weeks back explaining the process. It has come a long way. They showed pictures of the original ‘isolation room’ where they conducted the transplants a few decades ago. It was a bed in a corridor surrounded by plastic sheeting. Nurses and Doctors would tend to the patient with plastic gloves attached to the plastic sheeting. The patients would be in the bubble for weeks, eating food alone and sending out their bedpans from time to time. Lonely.

We were discussing how much better things are now, and you are generally in a single room and people need to just wash their hands. Even the advantage of using the internet while you are in such treatment helps you feel connected to people when their physical presence may be an infection risk. The presentation that showed the history of the treatment was a good reminder that we are born in privileged times. Hopefully, patients in 20 years time will be able to look back on our treatment and be thankful they were born in privileged times, as they pop into the hospital briefly to take their one tablet before getting back into living life.


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