A PET scan test for cancer is a common practice with patients who have finished chemotherapy. I was given mine a few months after my last treatment session. In this post, I want to talk about what a PET scan is, and my experience in having one done for me.
A PET, or Positron Emission Tomography, scan is an imaging test used to detect disease in the body, and is most commonly used by oncologists in detecting any remaining traces of cancer in a patient’s body. It’s very similar to a CAT scan, yet is more indepth. It is the most accurate and indepth way of detecting cancer in the body.
Because a PET scan test for cancer is so indepth, it is also very expensive. This is one reason why it is used only after a patient shows no signs of cancer through other means (blood tests, CAT scans, etc). It also exposes the patient to radiation for longer periods than a normal CAT scan. There is also no need for repeated PET scans, unless a patient shows signs of a relapse of the disease.
My experience started when the PET scan was scheduled. I was told to eat a very low carb and high protein diet the day of the scan, and to drink plenty of water. When I arrived at the hospital for the test, I first went to the admitting desk. From there, I went down to radiology, got checked in, and waited. From there, one of the radiology techs came to get me in a wheel chair, and took me outside to a special trailer set up for Pet scans.
One of the first things in a PET scan test for cancer, is testing the blood sugar. The level of sugar in the blood must be no higher than a certain amount, which is why I was told to eat a low carb diet. After my blood sugar was checked, and the levels where good, they then injected me with a radioactive sugar water solution. What happens is, any cancer cells will come out of hiding and immediately go for the sugar, and the radioactive dye in the solution is used by the PET imaging scanner to photograph and detect any cancer.
After the injection, they had me lay on the scanning table and rest. It takes time for the sugar solution to go through the body, and for any cancer cells to “take the bait”. I rested for about half an hour, then was woken up by the tech. I went to empty out my ostomy bag, and then went back to the scanner.
The process of a “PET scan test for cancer” is similar to a normal CAT scan. The difference is that, it is a slower and longer process. The idea is to be as thorough as possible. The entire process, from the time I got to the trailer, until I was finished, was close to 4 hours.
After the PET scan, the radiology doctor read the scans, and sent the report to my oncologist. I saw my primary doctor about a month after the PET scan, and asked her if she could find out the results for me, since I wouldn’t see my oncologist for atleast another month after that. She checked the report, and the results of the test showed no sign of any cancer in my body. My husband was with me when I got the news, and as you can imagine, we where extremely ecstatic!
So, now that my chemo was finished, and my PET scan came back clear, the next step was to get radiation on the testicle area, to ensure that all cancer there was killed after my orchiectomy. That will be the subject of a future post. For now, I had piece of mind knowing that the PET scan test for cancer detected no remaining signs of the disease.