PET CT Scan – 6 November 2015 (Cancer and Me 40)

PET CT Scan – 6 November 2015 (Cancer and Me 40)

21st November 2015 0 By Andy Burrows

If a doctor promises you an appointment or a date for some tests and then you don’t hear anything it’s best to chase it up!

I hadn’t heard a thing about the PET CT scan appointment more than week after the doctor had said he was going to arrange it for “next week”. So I phoned and asked about it. I got a call back about an hour later from one of the secretaries saying that the doctor passed on his sincere apologies, but he’d forgotten to request the referral. However, they’d been able to get an urgent appointment for the next day and I should expect a call shortly.

PET CT scans are not available in Basingstoke hospital, so I was referred to Guildford Diagnostic Imaging at the Royal Surrey Hospital. I received the call and arranged the appointment for 11:30am the next day.

I was told to fast for 6 hours before the appointment – no food, no coffee or tea, no mints and sweets, just water. And they told me that after I’d received the radioactive injection I wouldn’t be able to look at screens (laptop or phone) while waiting the required 45 minutes before the scan itself. So I took a book to read and left my laptop at home.

As it turned out they’d had a failure in one of their processes in the morning, and by the time I turned up at 11:30am they were already running “one to two hours late”. Since I’d driven for 45 minutes to get there I decided to wait rather than reschedule for the next day (Saturday). Without my laptop to work on I resorted to reading and playing Scrabble on my iPhone.

At 2pm I was finally called. I was taken to the mobile scanner in the car park, which I think was because one of their two in-house scanners had broken down the previous week. No big deal.

I spent 5 minutes answering the nurse’s standard questions, and listening to her explanations. I’d be radioactive for 8 hours after the scan, so don’t be in close contact with young children or pregnant women.

She then inserted the cannula, injected the radioactive dye and removed the cannula. And then I had to sit and do nothing for 45 minutes. I was too bored to read by that stage, so I closed my eyes and dozed for at least part of the time.

PET-CT-ScannerI was taken through to the scanner, which is probably 3-4 times deeper/longer than a normal CT scanner by my estimation, but it’s not completely enclosed like an MRI scanner. The process is similar to a CT scan, but it takes longer. Instead of lying on the slab and being passed through fairly smoothly twice, they do it in sections lasting three minutes each. It’s once all the way through for a normal CT scan to get the positions of the organs. And then back through a bit at a time, moving every three minutes, in about six sections. So instead of 5 minutes, it’s probably about 20-30 minutes. And instead of holding your breath for each pass, you just hold your arms above your head and breathe normally throughout.

I got so bored I fell asleep in the scanner just before they finished (fortunately!), and was awoken by the ding-a-ling of the sound signifying the completion of the scan.

The nurse came in, slid the slab out from the scanner and lowered it down so that I could get off. I’d been able to have the scan with all my clothes on because I didn’t wear anything metallic. All I’d had to do was pull my tracksuit bottoms down to my knees (because the eyelets for the waist cord were the only bit of metal), with a blanket over me to keep me decent, and take off my glasses. So afterwards I just put my glasses on, pulled my trackies up, stood up and went back to my car.

I got home at about 5pm, so there was no chance of doing any work as I’d planned. Never mind!

When I got home there was a letter from Southampton General Hospital waiting for me. Finally, an appointment in the Oncology department – 16th November. Slowly we’re now moving towards the big event.