Skeletal Survey, PET/CT, MRI, DEXA

Moving right along…

Third post: Skeletal Survey & Scans

Bored yet? :)

When my initial m-spike was found I had a skeletal survey (full body x-rays) to check my bones. I actually just found the CD with all the images – skull, spine, pelvis, ribs, arms, legs etc. all from different angles. Kind of crazy to look at. The skeletal survey was obviously painless, just like any regular x-ray except they took a ton of pictures. It took a some time to get in all the right positions for each of the images, however. My bones were fine. I had this skeletal survey back when I was initially diagnosed in September of 2009 and I haven’t had one since.

When I started seeing Dr. R in November of 2009 he had me get a PET/CT scan (positron emission tomography/computerized tomography). A PET/CT helps doctors see how the tissues and organs of the body are functioning. After my biopsy results this past July I had another PET/CT scan. Dr. R wanted me to have these scans to rule out lymphoma and to check my organs/tissues. Both of my scans were entirely negative.

The PET/CT is painless, but long. In preparation for the scan I couldn’t drink or each anything except for plain water within 6 hours of the scan. Both my PETs were scheduled in the morning so I couldn’t eat anything when I woke up. I was pretty starving but it’s not like I was going to get up at 3AM to eat a snack. Intense physical activity like running, weight lifting, yoga, and massages need to be avoided 24 hours before the scan. Before the scan I had a quick blood test to check my blood glucose level. Then I was injected with a radioactive tracer and had to rest quietly in a private room for one hour. Family and friends can’t be in the private room because obviously you will talk and doctors have found that the tracer collects in your throat and doesn’t get evenly distributed throughout the body like it should. During this hour waiting period my first scan I read and the second scan I watched TV. Boring, uneventful. After the  hour of waiting for the radioactive tracer to distribute, I was asked use the bathroom to empty my bladder before the scan.

Next…the scan.


For the scan itself you lay down (you don’t have to change into a gown, but you have to make sure you aren’t wearing any jewelry or have metal on your clothing) and they sort of wrap your arms down to your body and put a band around your feet so you won’t move. The scan is slow – you are moved a little bit and then stop for a few minutes. I didn’t feel too claustrophobic because most of the time part of my body is outside the tube. It’s very quiet except machine makes a noise when you are moved along and there is a very slight whirring noise at one end of the tube. My arms, hands, and feet fell asleep during my second scan and I couldn’t wait to wiggle them. The scan takes about an hour or so but to me it felt like longer.

Overall the PET/CT isn’t a huge deal, but like I said, a bit time consuming since it takes a total of two hours (one hour for the tracer, one hour or so for the scan). After the scan I was given a card that said that I had been injected with this radioactive tracer and I had to avoid contact with children and pregnant or potentially pregnant women for 24 hours. Kind of crazy being radioactive.

I have an MRI scheduled for December and have been told the scan lasts about 75 minutes or so. I believe this is to evaluate marrow signal and take a better look at my back. Not entirely sure how an MRI differs from a PET in terms of preparation and procedure. But if you are really enticed and want to learn more MRIs and PET/CTs please read  Study Compares MRI And PET-CT Scans For Evaluation Of Multiple Myeloma.

There is one test that I haven’t had that I am going to ask about at my December appointment. I have never had my bone density checked but I have read that people who have MGUS should have a DEXA scan. Study Suggests MGUS Patients Receive Inadequate Evaluation, Follow-Up, And Treatment