I am writing this article as I sit in (outside actually) the State Library of Hawaii in Honolulu overlooking the courtyard from the second floor, watching the palm leaves flutter in the warm breeze, listening to the birds sing and reflecting on the course Life has taken me over the past five years. It is not wise to play “shoulda, woulda, coulda” but I sometimes cannot help but wonder if “things” had been different would the outcome today be the same. Please give careful consideration to having a PET scan if you are concerned about your health.
As you read this article there are two decisions I would like you to consider.
Firstly, if you smoke cigarettes; please give it up as it is now being found that lung cancer can occur 30 years after quitting smoking.
Secondly, if you have had breast cancer followed by radiation discuss your follow-up schedule with your physician and oncologist to give serious consideration to having a PET scan.
Reasons to Consider a PET scan
- Lung Cancer is now the leading cause of death for woman today (in Australia) and 80% of these are attributable to cigarette smoking, even if you have not smoked for 30 years
- There is no preventative screening for lung cancer that I am aware of
- There are no symptoms of lung cancer in its early stage
- By the time lung cancer is diagnosed (after symptoms appear) it is usually Stage 3 or 4 or invasive so time is of the essence
- Some types of chemotherapy treatment do little to slow down the growth of certain types of lung cancer
- Generally the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is low
- If you started smoking between the ages of 12 and 30 years of age
- Continued smoking between the ages of 12 to 30 for several years
- Were a heavy or chain smoker
- Have not smoked for 20 or 30 years (since then)
- Been diagnosed with any sort of cancer, at any time
- Had radiation treatment, especially after breast cancer surgery
- Are a woman (but also if you are a concerned male)
- Have had a continual cough which does not go away
- Have extreme fatigue which never goes away
- If there is a history of other cancers in your immediate family
There are also other criteria such as obesity, diet and lack of exercise and simply “wear and tear” as we age which can contribute to cancer. Please also bear in mind that the above symptoms and circumstances may also indicate other medical concerns and not necessarily lung cancer (including emphysema, COPD, other cancer) and why your family physician or a respirologist should be consulted.
Waiting for appointments and test results from MRI’s, scans, needle biopsies can take a long time and the waiting can be extremely stressful, but more importantly with results which may not be conclusive. For me the definitive diagnosis eventually came months after testing began from an emergency PET scan which showed the cancerous nodule in my lungs resulting with lung surgery within two weeks. The cancer was already at the “invasive” stage but gratefully “micro” and “slow-growing”.
All of us are unique and some people can smoke for 80 years and live to a ripe old age where others in their teens who have never smoked can die of lung cancer. Hopefully this personal note might stir you to consider this step if you have concerns. Speak to your physician. If nothing of a medical concern is found on your scan ~ Congratulations! There is no price on peace of mind and it is not good to dwell on the past or unknown but instead search for a solution.
Be pro-active with your health if you have concerns and
remember to keep a log of symptoms, appointments, tests, medications, etc.
The difference between a PET scan versus a CT scan?
The Difference between a PET scan versus a CT scan
Simply, you are injected before the PET scan, with radioactive sugar, which after fasting is attracted to any cancer (usually larger than 1/4” in size) which “lights” up the cancer anywhere in your body (knees to nose) and is easily diagnosed. This diagnostic procedure is minimally invasive and takes about two hours (actually scan is only 20 to 30 minutes).
Here’s is the official information on how a PET scan works from the B.C. Cancer Agency
- I am an advocate for Women’s Lung Cancer Research and Prevention and I hope my writing will encourage you and maybe save a Life!
- If waiting lists for x-rays, scans, MRI’s are long, consider private testing. For example; appointments for a private PET scan were available at three locations in Vancouver, B.C. Canada, within two working days with diagnostic results to the local cancer agency within 24 hours. Cost of PET scan in 2012 of approximately $C2,000
- Private testing became a consideration for us when we had to wait six months for a MRI – seek alternatives.
Links & References
- Symptoms of Lung Cancer – Canadian Cancer Society
- Symptoms of Emphysema – Canadian Lung Association
- Symptoms of COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- Types and Stages of Lung Cancer
- Article on leading cause of death for woman is lung cancer
- B.C. Cancer Statistics on lung cancer
- Cancer survival rates
- The Disturbing connection … cancer and radiation connection – Caramel and Parsley article
- Cancer Statistics 2012 – Caramel and Parsley article
Would a PET scan change your Life?
Give yourself a choice and a chance
before it is taken away from you.
You are inspiring Liz. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of PET scans. It wasn’t until I had a PET scan that my cancer was finally diagnosed. I don’t mean that the CT, MRI and biopsies weren’t helpful, but a few months were lost while having these tests. If I’d had a PET scan in the first place then things would have been fast tracked. Probably wouldn’t have made a lot of difference in my case, but my particular cancer was fairly rare. Congratulations on being free at last.
Hi Pam, Thank you so much for your compliments and comments. I hope that this PETscan article will be read by someone who can “fast track” their diagnosis for a speedy resolution. Best wishes and happiness. Liz