What’s in a Thyroid Scan?

Many of you are aware that I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in January 2013. It has been a long and inconvenient road to recovery, but I am so very thankful and blessed that I had a cancer that is for the most part, very treatable. My treatments mostly only consisted of surgery to remove the thyroid completely to prevent the opportunity for it to grow back inside the organ. There is always the possibility of the cancer coming back in different areas of the body, which is why it is important to have regular check-ups, blood draws, and routine scans to ensure there is no cancer. Many people have asked what is involved in doing a scan for cancer, so as a photographer, I decided to document the event in pictures. This is probably one of the rare instances that I will post something personal on my photography blog, so don’t worry about this becoming a regular thing! At my October 8, 2014 doctor’s appointment for my bi-annual endocrinologist check up this year, my doctor decided she wanted me to do a full body scan to ensure that there wasn’t any sign of cancer since my next check up will not be for a whole year! Beginning the next day, I had to go on a 3 week long low-iodine diet. This is honestly the worst part of the whole scan process. 3 weeks of not eating out at your favorite restaurants or being able to eat anything with regular iodized salt. Pretty much, you can ONLY eat fresh fruits and vegetables, egg whites, up to 6 oz. of fresh meat per day, or anything with no salt. Unsalted peanut butter is disgusting! If you want to be able to have salt on anything, you have to make everything from scratch (including your own salad dressing) with Kosher salt. Sea salt or anything from the ocean is off limits due to the very high levels of iodine. So, needless to say, I spent 3 weeks eating more healthy than any other time in my life. Enough about that awful part of the process… The scan takes about 5 days to complete the whole process. The week of my scan, I went in on Monday, October 20 to get my first of two thyrogen injections. Thyrogen® is used as a preparation for treatment with a form of iodine to remove left over thyroid tissue in patients who have had surgery to take out the entire thyroid gland for a certain type of thyroid cancer (known as well differentiated thyroid cancer) and who do not have signs of thyroid cancer which has spread to other parts of the body. 20141020_145215 20141020_153913   There is a lot of waiting that goes on in this process…waiting in the waiting room, and then waiting for the pharmacy to provide the injection to the nurse. 20141020_151005   After I received the injection, I stopped by the lab to get a pregnancy test. Don’t worry, no scare of being pregnant, but it’s required prior to me taking the radioactive iodine pill. All was good, as the pregnancy test came back negative.      Tuesday, I had to travel back to the Cancer Center again for my second thyrogen infusion. 20141021_161502 20141020_145323     Wednesday, it was time to take the radioactive iodine pill. The reason I have to be on the low-iodine diet is so that any possible thyroid tissue left in my body will be so deprived of iodine that it will immediately absorb the radioactive iodine, which in turn kills off any of the tissue remaining. After taking the radioactive iodine, I had to sleep alone for 3 nights and not be around the children much (which mostly means not allowing them to sleep in my bed or hold them much for about 3-5 days). 20141022_101027 The radioactive iodine comes in this tiny little lead jar, which is delivered in a lead box (that looks like a cooler) just a few minutes prior to my appointment. I pop the pill straight from the little glass tube. And then leave the hospital. Life is normal (well, as normal as can be while being radioactive and on a low-iodine diet) until Friday morning. I returned to the hospital Friday morning to get my full-body scan. The scan takes approx 40-50 min. (10 minutes for my lower abdomen, 10 min for my chest, and then 20 min for my neck area). Yep! I laid in the tube for 40-50 min with the rectangular scanner section about 2 inches from my face. It’s not uncomfortable or anything! <sarcasm> 20141024_101629 20141024_101658   After my scan, it was finally time to be able to eat one of these… 20141024_120216 I drooled for 3 weeks waiting to have one  of these. 🙂 I also had to do one final blood draw to retest my thyroid levels. The best part is that after all of this inconvenient effort, my results came back negative for any cancer!!! Praise the Lord! I remain cancer free!!! God is good!

P.S. All of the photos in this post were taken with my cell phone, so the quality and lighting are not professional quality.

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