PET Scan

My apologies for not posting last week. My laptop was at Geek Squad to clean out any stuff left by a scammer.

photo of gray cat looking up against black background

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This morning I had a PET scan. I’d had one four years ago and forgot the routine.

After accessing my port, a nuclear technician took me to a back room to give me the glucose laced with a radioactive isotope. I had to lie down for an hour while it processed through my system. I had a private room with a bed.

BTW, to prepare, I couldn’t exercise for 24 hours or eat four hours prior to the scan.

The tech then had me lie on the PET bed and ran me through the machine, once to get my torso and another to scan my legs. The scan would have taken 40 minutes, but she had a problem with either the computer or the machine. I needed to be re-scanned and the total time was 60 minutes on that PET bed.

The PET detects cancer by how the sugar is absorbed by cells. Cancer cells uptake sugar at a higher rate than healthy cells, and the radioactive isotope makes the area light up when the machine scans. It’s a more accurate detection system than a CT scan.

The side benefit as far as my husband was concerned was that I was radioactive for a while. He couldn’t get me home fast enough with the first PET. He set his Geiger counter to the lowest setting and pointed it at me. I pegged it at three feet!

And with no cancer detected, I won’t have to see the doc for three months! Yay!



A Brief History of Melanoma

skin cancer preventionI thought melanoma was a recent invention, but not so. The first recorded descriptions of the dark tumor (melas oma) are found in the writing of Hippocrates in the 5th century B.C. The earliest physical evidence comes from the skeletons of Pre-Columbian mummies estimated to be at least 2,400 years old.

Physicians learned that melanomas often originated in moles but knew little about how cancers grow and spread. The only treatment in the early days was to cut or burn off the mole and hope for the best.

In the last decade, researchers have discovered the relationship between cancer cells and the immune system. This opened the door to new treatment options for melanoma.

Scientists also discovered “driver mutations,” changes that occur in tumors and fuel the growth and spread of cancer cells. These mutations, which occur in more than half of all melanoma patients, can now be targeted with agents that either turn off or block their activity.

In the past, the only treatment after surgery (adjuvant therapy) that improved survival was interferon, an agent that boosts the overall immune response.

The immunotherapy ipilimumab has been used as a treatment for metastatic melanoma since 2011. It unblocks or takes the brakes off the immune system by targeting the CTLA-4 component that helps turn off the immune system.

Current targeted therapies can inhibit the BRAF gene. Since there are multiple variations of the BRAF mutation, doctors continue to seek more precise and individualized treatments for these mutations. Another targeted therapy is one that inhibits MEK, a protein involved in cancer growth. KIT is another gene that sometimes mutates in certain types of melanoma.

Bottom line: Cancer treatment is rapidly advancing in its success and survival rates. With so much improvement in this decade, who knows what the next decade will reveal?