CT/PET Scans

What’s it’s like to have a CT/PET Scan?

I’ve been shoved into one CT/PET box so many times at Memorial North in Colorado Springs I’m thinking about scratching “Leland was here” on the walls.  This combined procedure is par for the course in ongoing cancer care follow ups.  Here are some of my thoughts and experiences on the subject.

First off:

  • C-T (CAT) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scans are often done together
  • Referred to commonly as just CT/PET scans.
  • IT DOESN’T HURT
  • IT’S PRETTY QUICK (15-30 mins)

The worst parts are:

  • Lying still
  • Drinking the contrast
    • You have to pick up a bottle from hospital prior to procedure
    • Drink 16 “ouncer” 2 hours prior to scan
    • Drink other half 16 ounces an hour before the scan
    • Guzzle the remaining half when you get to facility
    • The stuff is nasty, seriously nasty, strong gag worthiness, serious contender for all time greatest barf awards
      • Thick, chalky, steely choke on your choice of pseudo fruity flavor stuff
      • Don’t be fooled by clever names on bottle…”Berry Berry,” ha!

There is an infusion after a few minutes:

  • The infusion always gives me a “pee-pee-in-my-pants-feeling-sensation” (to use a technical description)
    • Of-course the infusion requires getting an IV
      • Seems like every medical procedure – ad infinitum – requires an a @#$$%! IV!!!
      • Can’t underscore the importance of a skilled technician when it comes to poking me with a needle
      • The skill level is really the difference between a relatively mild prick and repeats, new pokes, more bruises, blaming you for your “rubbery veins”, or returning to work and people suspecting – based on the track marks on your arm – you decided to go with heroin for lunch
    • Here I learned, though not perhaps comfortable, it is okay to suggest hopefully in a kind and understanding way, that the technician get someone else to do the stabbing if he or she is having trouble with my rubbery veins
    • The other thing you can do is make sure you are well hydrated before procedure which will help the technicians in getting a good vien

And finally my recurring “40 Year Old Virgin moment

  • That’s because I have hair on my arms, am an ape man/teen wolf
  • When they yank the thick strip of tape holding the IV off my arm, invariably I vow to go 100% Powder (remember that weird little movie from 90s?)
  • Even worse is they do an EKG on the chest hair
    • This is why every nurse/tech should have a razor in toolkit to shave you up
    • I’m starting a movement, “Save the body follicles” campaign
    • We’re gonna crowd fund this baby and change the world!

Additional Notes on C-T/PET Scans:

C-T or CAT scans are essentially a series of X-rays captured in “slices” through the body.

  • This is not quite as terrifying as the book of real human slices at The Museum of Science of Industry in Chicago.
    • That used to seriously weird me out as a kid.
      • A man and woman in the 40’s bodies were frozen solid, power sawed into 1/2 inch sections, and set in sheets of glass.
    • I don’t think they are still exhibited in book format but are “portraits” on wall or something equally capable of giving me nightmares as adult.
  • Alas, I digress…

The digital CT slices are analyzed by software.

  • The resulting images can indicate things like location, shape, and density of tumors
    • But have limitations in finding smaller tumors (less than 2m).
    • So here’s where the combination of PET with CAT make good/is a good idea.
      • PETs detect variations in metabolic and chemical activity in the body using positively charged particles.
      • Areas with increased metabolic activity show up as colored images.
        • Since cancer cells divide more rapidly than the good guys /normal cells, they present with higher metabolic activity.
  • In this way PETs identify small areas (smaller than CTs or even MRIs for that matter).

I hope there is no evidence of disease on your scans.

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