Friday, January 13, 2006

And Another Thing

A couple of weeks before we started this blog, I had to have a very scary test known as a PET/CT scan. The test is scary because, in my case, it was done to see whether this brand-new breast cancer had spread elsewhere in my body. Actually, this was before we knew that it was a brand-new cancer, so we were still operating under the assumption that it might be a recurrence.

So I was somewhat freaked out because A) I never had to have this test the first time around, B) having it this time meant that there was a legitimate concern that the cancer had spread, and C) PET/CT scans are so sensitive that they can often produce something akin to false positives—things that need to be evaluated further because they "light up" on the scan but eventually turn out to be nothing.

In my case, two things lit up on the PET/CT scan: the area around the tumor (no surprise) and the right lobe of my thyroid.

Now, I have had thyroid trouble for about four years, ever since I finished treatment for the last go-round. (Yes, I've wondered if there is a connection. If there is, I have not yet found it.) Thyroid problems— hypothyroidism in my case—are exceedingly common and not terribly worrisome (in the grand scheme of things) so long as they are monitored and treated. I take a synthetic thyroid hormone every day—it's a teeny pill (maybe the size of a children's aspirin, if that) with absolutely no side effects or drug interactions—and have my blood tested periodically to make sure everything is on track.

In any event, I've known for a while that the right lobe of my thyroid is larger than the left lobe. I even had a thyroid ultrasound less than a year ago to make sure everything was copacetic, which it was. But, of course, I had to have it re-evaluated in light of the PET/CT results.

So today I saw my endocrinologist, and he read the PET/CT report and compared it to the ultrasound report, and even though he is not overly concerned, he wants to be absolutely sure that everything is still copacetic. As do we. Which means I will be having an ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration (FNA) next week.

A FNA is a bit like a junior-varsity version of a biopsy—instead of removing actual tissue, the radiologist uses a smaller-gauge needle to remove just fluid and/or cells and then scopes them out under a microscope. If necessary (i.e. if things look suspicious under the microscope), a full-on biopsy can be done later.

Ever since we got the PET/CT scan results about a month ago, I figured that a thyroid biopsy was in my future, so I'm not especially fazed by the prospect of having an FNA. Of course, I'd prefer not to have someone stick a needle in my neck, but at least it's a change from having them stuck in my arm.


Anonymous Randi said...

I saw an interesting story on the news the other day about a different kind of "PET scan". There are actually dogs that can sniff the breath of humans and detect cancer, sometimes a year before it actually shows up on any kind of diagnostic test. Wouldn't that be nice rather than being poked and prodded?

January 14, 2006 1:16 PM  

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