Living with Cancer: #3

In the development of my game plan to fight my colorectal cancer, I had the privilege of having my innards ?photographed? a couple of weeks ago at my local hospital. It?s a modern facility, barely two years old, so I?m thankful that someone had the foresight, and the resources to purchase what?s commonly referred to as a CAT unit.

The term CAT scans has become fairly common in our modern vocabulary; yet few of us get to know that they?re much more than ?some sort of fancy x-ray? machine. In fact, Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) is a diagnostic procedure that uses special x-ray equipment to look for a host of health problems that your doctor may think are lurking below your skin.

The CAT computer displays cross-sectional pictures taken during the scan as detailed images of organs, bones and other tissues. I endured a painless, if somewhat uncomfortable procedure to pinpoint the size and location of the tumor in my colon. The one thing I did ask the technician to do as I lay on the CAT table was to be sure to get my good side!

Like most Canadians, I thought all cancer was of the same brand, until I was diagnosed with my own. As mentioned in an earlier article, I have adenocarcinoma in my bowel. Carcinoma is a type of cancer that usually begins in the tissues that line or cover internal organs. What I?ve learned in the past few weeks is that carcinomas are one of several main kinds of cancer, all of which can kill you. Early detection is the key; hence the recent colonoscopy and CAT scan.

Because my particular invader chose the colon to attack, I was ordered to drink a couple of bottles of prescribed liquid that I assure you are not regular stock in my fridge. I?m hoping they?re not in yours either; but in case you have to undergo a similar scan, let me tell you this. The purging of your digestive system is not half as much fun as the re-inflating of your bowel that takes place just before the scan!

I?ve already shared an insertion experience with you, so let?s just say the same access point is used to pump pressure-controlled carbon dioxide (CO2) back in until you resemble a human balloon. That?s the uncomfortable part, but necessary for the pictures of your insides to be truly three dimensional. The really hilarious part was when the CT technician told me to roll onto my other side! I pretty much floated over. Oh, and don?t worry about all that CO2; your body absorbs most of it, and you exhale it naturally.

What the CAT scan ultimately told my surgeon was that my carcinoma is about 19 millimeters long, and that there is no evidence the cancer has spread beyond the bowel wall. Yay! It told him also that the tumor is located in my sigmoid colon (basically the last length of drain pipe before waste empties into the rectum), and very close to the pelvic end of the rectum. Not so joyful now.

According to Dr. Basmajian, the location of this tumor makes radiation therapy all but impossible to do without the risk of damaging my small intestine, bladder and prostate. His prognosis: surgery to cut out the cancerous section of bowel. My reaction: you?re the surgeon, but would you mind if I got a second opinion?

As it turns out, second opinions are par for the cancer course. So, armed with my portfolio of CT pictures and the probability of major surgery down the short road, I head to my regional cancer centre next week to see what the next doctor has to say.

I certainly hope she realizes she?s looking at my best side!