Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scan Day, Again

When you have a chronic disease such as melanoma, scans become part of your life. Hopefully at some point they become less frequent than our monthly ones at the present. Most patients end up getting them quarterly, and then managing aspects of the disease (i.e., tumor removal). The ultimate goal of course is to become disease free, but for melanoma patients currently that is not realistic, you simply want to be NED (no evidence of disease).

So you undergo systemic treatments (treatments not going after particular tumors but ones that try to ramp up your immune system to go after tumors when they emerge). You try one, scan some period after, if it works and you are NED, great, if not, you move on to another. If tumors pop up you manage them. The short-term goal is to buy time until the long-term, durable, permanent cure is discovered.

One lesson we have learned from the scans though. Have the scans one day, and the oncologist visit the next. There is a lot of temptation and pressure to find out right away. But there needs to be sufficient time for the radiologist to review the scans, write the report, and for the oncologist to review all that, talk with the radiologist, before having the conversation with you about results and next actions. We crammed it all into one day once and got incomplete information, which led to a wrong conclusion, which scared the hell out of us. It was rectified the next day, but we went through needless anxiety. So never again. Today is scan day. Tomorrow is oncologist day.

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