People who undergo PET/CT bone scans are often nervous beforehand, which is completely understandable. The main reason people get the scans is to detect possible cancerous growths that have metastasized (spread) to the body’s skeletal system from a cancer originating elsewhere, such as the breasts or lungs.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Metastatic Bone Disease (MBD) is particularly common for people who have breast, prostate, lung, kidney or thyroid cancer. MBD can afflict any bones, from the spine and pelvis, to the skull or thighs. It’s a painful condition, severely damaging the bones, increasing the risk of fracture, and significantly reducing quality of life.
As such, it’s usually under fairly stressful circumstances that people get a PET/CT bone scan to assess the health of their skeletal system.
Knowing what to expect makes things easier
The scan itself is painless. But here are some things to know about and prepare for mentally in advance:
- There’s no need to fast before the scan; you can eat your regular diet. Make sure you’re also drinking plenty of fluids. The scan technicians may ask you to take off any metal items, such as jewelry, that you’re wearing; you may just want to leave those at home.
- About an hour before the scan, you’ll be getting an injection of Sodium Fluoride F 18. If you already know you have an allergy to the substance, be sure to discuss it with your doctor prior to making an appointment for a scan (your doctor will likely ask you about it anyway). If you have no reason to believe you have an allergy, remain alert to symptoms after the injection and report them ASAP.
- After the injection, you’ll have about an hour to wait before the scan starts. You’ll be able to drink water during that time. It’s also recommended that you bring something to relax with, such as a book you like or some music to listen to quietly on headphones.
- Before the scan starts, you’ll be asked to urinate (an empty bladder means that the pelvic bones show up more clearly).
- For the scan itself, you’ll be sliding through a scanner. This can feel strange and claustrophobic, so be sure to discuss this in advance with your doctor if you think you’ll have problems with the confined space. Also, think of strategies you can use to keep calm. One thing that may reassure you is that you can stay in contact with the scan operator via intercom while the scan is in-progress.
- After the scan, it’s best to drink a lot of fluids. You’ll still have the Sodium Fluoride F 18 in you, and by drinking fluids and urinating, you’ll flush it out of your system more quickly. Otherwise, you can go about your day (though again, if you feel any unusual symptoms, report them). Within a couple of days your doctor should receive the scan results.
If you have any additional questions about these kinds of scans, don’t hesitate to contact us. We want you to feel as comfortable as possible with this important diagnostic procedure; knowing what to expect and how to prepare for it will help.