Petting Cancer

Doctors checking x-rays and cat scans for tumors have long faced a dilemma when they do find a suspicious spot. There’s been no way to tell whether or not the spot’s actually cancer without operating. Not anymore.

Twenty-nine-year-old Henry takes time to smell the flowers. This father of three is fighting lung cancer, and so far he’s beat the odds. Something called a PET scan has helped him.

Henry, “Without the PET scan, today I’d probably be very short of breath, no hope at all.”

PET scans are common computer images, but doctors at Duke University have pumped up their power to detect lung cancer. The secret is this special sugar solution that glows on scan images. Cancer cells gobble it up, but normal cells don’t.

The tumor in this scan is invisible. It didn’t absorb the sugar because it isn’t cancer. This tumor in Henry’s lung did absorb the sugar. He’d already had one tumor removed. The good news?

Henry, “It lit up like a Christmas tree in my lungs and nowhere else in my body.”

Which meant the cancer hadn’t spread outside the lung. So Henry had a second operation.

A radiologist., “At many centers they would have considered him a non-surgical candidate, and they would have gone on directly to chemotherapy and radiation.”

Henry, “Anybody who is faced with the word cancer and the word inoperable, as a last chance, if the PET scan would make that decision easier, I would recommend it to anyone.”

This type of PET scan is used most often to evaluate lung cancer, but Dr. says it’s starting to be used for cancer of the skin, breast, brain, pancreas and lymphatic system.

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