During the course of your treatment, you'll periodically receive some or all of the above scans for various reasons, but mostly to determine the progression, if any, of the cancer. I came into this adventure with a couple of problems that set me apart from the average patient. I had a deathly fear of anything being injected through IV (mostly because of the injection site, not what they were putting into me), and also that I was probably the most claustrophobic person who ever lived. Seriously, I'm so claustrophobic that I can't breathe in a completely dark room.
Since, I'm probably not the only one out there who suffers from these debilitating characteristics, I always found it helpful to know exactly what the scan was going to entail, how it was going to be completed, did I need an IV and, most importantly, how narrow and long was the tunnel that they would shove me through. Ugh!!! Knowing ahead of time, I could prepare for the worse or cancel the appointment (which so far I have not had to do).
THE CT SCAN: This is no big deal at all. The opening that you are going through is only about 9 to 15 inches and the space is not narrow as compared to a closed MRI. The worse part of this scan is the prep. You are given this absolutely vile liquid to drink the night before and the morning of the scan. I did learn from the nurses that if you say that you can't get and keep this liquid down, then they will give you a prepared liquid that's called a "fast prep". This isn't wonderful, but it is so much more tolerable than the thick peppermint chalk alternative. You go in about an hour before the scan and drink this drink that resembles Tang. Now, even though I thought the prep was going to be either the pre-scan drink or IV at the time of scan, I actually got both. Didn't expect this. So be prepared, there's probably an IV in your future with this scan.
Below is a link that explains the CT scan in more scientific terms and detail. Click HERE for more details on the CT Scan.
THE PET SCAN:
This scan is one step up from the CT scan in terms of the size of the machine opening. The size of the opening is between the CT scan and an MRI machine. The length is approximately 5' or so, but the narrowness of the tube enclosure is larger than the MRI so most people do not have a problem with it at all. I kept my eyes closed through the whole procedure so I wouldn't experience the narrowness. Depending on where they are looking, you can be in this machine anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. The technician made this experience more tolerable for me by telling me that my head is completely out in 10 minutes. Now, that I could do.
This scan requires an IV injection of a radioactive tracer. Then you sit for about an hour while the radioactivce tracer is absorbed before the scan can begin. Again, there is no pain involved in any of these tests, just possibly the mental discomfort of you're like me.
Below is a link to more information regarding the PETscan. Click HERE for more details on the PET Scan.
THE MRI: You may or may not experience this scan depending on where the cancer is in your body. The MRI is used for different areas than the CT scan for proper imaging results of tumors. I've included a link for more information on the MRI below.
The MRI is the stuff nightmares are made of if you're anything like me. Sorry, but it's true. If you're not claustrophobic then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. If you are...... well.
The MRI machine is a long, very narrow tube entrance. The average amount of time within this tube depends on where they are looking and what they are looking for, but it can be up to an hour. This scan is also excessively loud making a continuous booming sound. In my experience, no IVs involved or prep of any kind.
Now I really don't like to scare people and, believe me, this is not my intention. If you are debilitatingly claustrophobic, there is an alternative to the closed MRI - it's the Open MRI. I've had this done and it is a piece of cake compared to the alternative. The top of the scanner is about 5 or 6 inches above your face, but the sides are completely open.
Click HERE for more details on the MRI. I've included photos of both open and closed MRIs below so you can see the difference. Night and day, aren't they???
THE MUGA SCAN:
The MUGA Scan is used if you are receiving a a type of chemotherapy or other treatment that may cause damage to the heart. They will usually do a MUGA scan to begin with as a baseline, then repeat every 3 or so months during treatment.
This test requires starting an IV. Then they take approximately 2cc of blood. They inject a radioactive substance into the blood that attaches to the red blood cells. After about 30 minutes, you are called back and they reinject you with your blood and the radioactive substance. Then your x-ray begins which is uneventful and painless. You may be asked to move your arms in different positions while they take pictures of your heart from different angles.
This is common while undergoing treatment with Herceptin.
Click HERE for more deatils on the MUGA Scan.