Chronicle of a Stem Cell Transplant (and on through to the other side)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Shiny, Happy, Radioactive People

I had my PET (positron emission tomography) scan yesterday at UBC and am feeling pretty good. Not that the scan produces any ill effects, but I had been feeling kind of crappy earlier in the week. Anyway, I am always kind of in awe when I get this procedure done a) because of how expensive the donut I'm sliding in and out of is and the fact that we are lucky enough to have two in our city and b) how simple yet effective the science is. I was so awestruck, in fact, that I fell asleep on the table with my arms strapped together.

Actually, it really is quite neat, if you are a geek...the scanner works by using radiation to develop the images (just call me Nuclear Nelly)...You are given a "minute" amount of a radioactive substance through an injection, fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which is similar to a naturally occurring sugar in the body, with the addition of a radioactive fluorine atom. Gamma radiation produced from the fluorine is detected by the PET scanner and shows in detail the metabolism of glucose in the body. Basically, colour will show up wherever there are cancer cells in your body, similar to, but not the same as those pink fluoride tablets you used to get in elementary school that showed how much plaque you had on your teeth. Only, the goal here is to have less, not more colour (I wasn't a high achiever).

When you are finished the scan, they give you a disc with your results to take to your doctor, but tell you not to look at it. Hmm. It is tempting in a let's-play-doctor kind of way, but I'm thinking not. My highly-communicative oncologist will undoubtedly look at it for 3 seconds and mutter something unintelligible under his breath that I will have to spend the rest of the day trying to figure out. Actually, he has been much better lately as I have become much more adept at deciphering the grunts.