Thursday, May 31, 2007

2nd Chemo - Pump Removed

K returned to hospital today to have the chemo pump removed. The kids spent the day with Grandma (thanks D). All went well but she is very sore. Her right side is really bothering her tonight, a sign the chemo is working we presume. The nausea meds are doing their job this time and side-effects are no fun but manageable.

Tomorrow we go to Overlook hospital for a PET scan. What's that I hear you ask?

"Positron emission tomography (PET) is a nuclear medicine medical imaging
technique which produces a three-dimensional image or map of functional
processes in the body."


"While some imaging scans such as CT and MRI isolate organic anatomic changes in the body, PET scanners, like SPECT are capable of detecting areas of molecular biology detail (even prior to anatomic change). The PET scanner does this via the use of radiolabelled molecular probes that have different rates of uptake, depending on the type and function of tissue involved. The changing of regional blood flow in various anatomic structures (as a measure of the injected positron emitter) can be visualized and relatively quantified with a PET scan."

It works sort of like a CT scan or MRI but instead of producing static images of a localized area, it produces 3D images of the entire body and instead of bones or organs, it shows ACTIVITY.

Here's an example:

They inject you with radioactive materials (literally) like carbon-11 (an isotope of carbon) and see where it goes. Remember an isotope is a form of an element with the same atomic number (number of protons) but a different atomic mass (number of protons+neutrons). So without the right number of protons the thing decays.

Carbon-11 decays in 20 mins so it's not really viable to use in the test. They'll likely use Fluorine-18 which has a half-life of about 110mins. That means it takes about 2hours for half the amount of stuff to decay. As it decays it gives off positrons that are picked up by the big circular thing around you. Ironic that when you have cancer they test you with something that could give you cancer.

Blah blah blah, long story short, you have GOT to be on time for this type of test. Otherwise the isotope will have decayed before they shoot you up with it.

The Fluorine-18 will be mistaken for glucose and taken up by glucose-absorbing cells. These are typically your brain, your liver or cancer. The cancer will basically light up.

The test reveals the areas in your body that have active cancer growth. We're hoping it's just the primary tumor in the colon and the tumors in the liver. We won't really be able to tell if the tumors have shrunken from this test as we don't have one to compare it to. We won't get the results until Monday. Tonight Karen has to drink some jars of fluids to prep. Here's a link to the exact group we'll meet with [LINK].

Long story short, this is amazing technology that can really give us some good information around how to treat K. I doubt we would get access to this advanced technology in my native Ireland or even in some other parts of the U.S.

Fingers crossed for a good result.


Kristin, G's mom said...

Thinking of you and praying a lot.

Strangely, G never had a PET scan; MRI & CT yes, but never this one, which is probably good, I don't know how we'd ever get her to drink stuff ahead of time.

Praying for good results, continued chemo response & lots of oomph. Rooting for you tons...

The Cams crew (aka G-Force!)

Gail said...

Ah I figured out how to post a comment. Hi Karen and Fran so glad to hear that the tumors were shrinking in 2nd Chemo Treatment and that the Overlook hospital has this PET scan. I will be praying that the results are full of good news. The group you met with, on Friday I think if I understand from the post, well, they look like a nice group people to me. Love you lots. Marcelo and I are thinking about you all the time.

jodo said...

Wow - was just browsing your page and came across the news about Karen's cancer. I pray that everything turns out all right for your family. Stay strong.

Erica Superba said...

I'm reading your blog from Ireland. My Uncle is battling through Stage IV colorectal cancer which has spread to his liver, lungs and lymph nodes (all the L's). He's had his first PET scan, this was done after his loop colostomy surgery and before his portacath insertion. Basically from diagnosis to 1st chemo session was approximately 3 weeks to let him heal from the stoma surgery and portacath insertion. It was the longest 3 weeks of our lives. My uncles name is Frank (Francis) Walsh and he's originally from Wicklow but now lives in Cork. He's on chemo no. 4 of 6 and he has another PET scan in early February to see if his cocktail of chemo drugs are doing their job. FINGERS AND TOES CROSSED.
We do obviously have PET scanners but unfortunately they seem to be only available in teaching hospitals, there are many of these hospitals but some patients do need to be transported to different counties for scanning. For instance, Frank is having private treatment in the Bon Secours Cork but they don't have a PET scanner so he needed to be transferred to Cork University Hospital. Not a huge distance but for Frank it was an ordeal.
I've only just started reading your blog, i'm looking for tips and also a bit of emotional encouragement because he has been given 3-5 years. Obviously we want him around for a LOT longer. I'm praying as I read through your posts that your wife, no matter how sick, is still 'well'.
Erica Birchall, Wicklow, Ireland.