Testing, testing – MRI, CT Scan, Bone Scan
An Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) is usually performed to find out the extent of the tumour’s penetration in your boob, to check whether there is any evidence of spread to the opposite boob, and to get a look at the surrounding lymph nodes. After changing into yet another glorious gown, the MRI itself takes about 20 minutes. You have to lie on your stomach and position the girls into a square container that is built into the bed (we use the term bed loosely, it’s really more like a tray). You’ll then go into the giant cylindrical machine feet first while they take a bunch of images, during which time you have to lie very still. They also give you earplugs because it is really loud when taking the images. The last image they take uses a contrasting agent that they pump into your IV (the first of many needles, we’re sorry) – this is to visualise the blood vessels. It can make you feel a little dizzy afterwards but other than that it’s not so bad.
If there is any indication that your lymph nodes are involved, the chance of cancer cells spreading via your lymphatic system is a concern. In order to see if there is anything else involved (like your lymph nodes, lungs, liver… or indeed anything else beginning with ‘L’) you may have a Computerised Tomography (CT) Scan. Like the MRI, it involves a contrast dye being injected into your vein to provide a clear view of your insides. With the added bonus that this injection at worst makes you feel like you’ve peed yourself, or at best gives you warm fuzzies in your nether regions to some extent. You’re then scanned by something resembling a large white lifesaver (that’s a polo mint if you’re English) and they end up with a clear picture of your insides for analysis, and to add to the rogues gallery of pictures you’re already amounting. Not exactly the kind of thing you had in mind for the family photo album.
Depending upon the results of your scans/treatment so far, there might be a need to check if the cancer has set up camp anywhere else. You might then be lucky enough to receive a radioactive isotope bone scan! You’re injected with radioactive solution (that’s right folks…radioactive!) and then have to go for a cuppa while it works its way through your system into your bones. Actually, its not as hardcore as it sounds and doesn’t hurt a bit apart from the injection for the dye, and by now they’re becoming a bit routine. After your cuppa you get to have a little lay down on a bed, while a large x-ray machine hovers about an inch from your nose. It then works its way very slowly down the length of your body for 20 mins or so while you try to think pleasant thoughts (like…what shall I have for tea?, is there really no other word that rhymes with orange? and not forgetting our favourite companion…WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?)
Another Test of Patience
Once the scanning is over, now is when you’ll again find yourself in that hellish holding pattern while you wait for your results. Nothing can make this any easier but every second that passes is a second closer to knowing your enemy. The sum of all of this scanning, poking and prodding is that once the results are all in, the treatment planning for Operation Kill Cancer can begin.
Next: Treatment Planning