• Why scan every 3 months?

    Asked by hilary on Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    Why scan every 3 months?

    Dad has pancreatic cancer. Whipple Surgery removed tumor Sept 2011. We are about 18 months out and he's had clean scans - except for some tiny spots on his lung last month. We learned from Radiation Oncologist that IF this IS CANCER - there is nothing Mayo would do about it until Dad started having symptoms. They've found no difference in life expectancy between starting chemo early vs. waiting till patient is symptomatic.

    So my question - why are we actively looking for the cancer to return (and presumably watching it grow) if we aren't going to do anything until Dad has symptoms from it??

    9 Answers from the Community

    9 answers
    • SueRae1's Avatar

      3 months is the protocol, why it's not more I haven't a clue. The scans are done to make sure that your dad's still in remission, and if not the catch any reoccurrence as early as they can and monitor for symptoms if it does. Remember symptoms can mean many things, so knowing the context in which they happening help guide the care. By the way spots on the lungs could me nothing, I have had nodes for the last 12 months, they come they go, the move around. At this point we are fairly sure that they are benign and part of the aging process.

      over 3 years ago
    • AlizaMLS's Avatar

      Dear Hilary,

      Hi. I'm Aliza, a Breast Cancer patient and a retired Medical Librarian. I help out on this site and elsewhere by offering advice (usually non medical [librarians don't offer medical advice-against our code of ethics and also more or less illegal, as it's practicing medicine without a license). So you might wonder what can I do and the answer is plenty! I offer referrals to doctors, hospitals/institutions, agencies and research when required or requested.

      I'm not by any means familiar with the type of cancer your Dad has, but I understand your anxiety. You may wish to get a second opinion. I see you're in Jacksonville, Fla. (I'm based in NYC and am treated at Sloan Kettering). I'm not going to suggest that you come here, however there is the Moffitt cancer Center in Tanpa, which is an NCI approved facility (I had to research hospitals for a woman with cancer in Tampa earlier today). It's certainly closer than refe4rring you to MD Anderson, Dana Farber, Sloan Kettering, or UCSF. You are always entitled to a second opinion and there's nothing stupid about that. Your insurance should cover that, but I'd check to make certain.

      I know Moffitt's a bit of a trip for you, but it's definitely not as far as any of the other places I've mentioned and if it will put your minds at ease,m it might be a good thing to dd.

      I wish your Dad the best possible outcome!

      If there's anything else I can do for you, please don't hesitate to message me, either on the site or offsite by email.

      Warm Wishes,

      over 3 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      Just one observation from my perspective. I noticed that insurance covered it every few months for dad for the cancer itself. It was interesting to watch a more accurate picture of the situation develop over time by having frequent scans. I was able to predict relatively accurately the rate of growth for his tumor by having more data, and I could see the change over time. If you're looking for a second opinion, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has been good to us about sending a list of doctors with the most experience in our area in these types of cancers. www.pancan.org That might even be a good question for them. They have no-cost one-on-one support.

      over 3 years ago
    • carm's Avatar

      Hello, I am an oncology nurse and maybe I can help clarify. You would be suprised to know what the human body can do. Although the diagnosis of cancer is devastating, the fact is that at a molecular level, the body has a way of getting rid of more mutations than you realize. Knowing that there is a chance that your Dads body could beat back the recurrence before it becomes an issue, it is better to wait and give it a chance, than to assault it with chemicals or radiation if he is asymptomatic. Better to hold those treatments in reserve until they are needed than expend an option he might need down the road. I hope this helps rationalize your doctors' suggestion. Best of luck to your Dad, Carm RN.

      over 3 years ago
    • JMS's Avatar

      hilary - I too have pancreatic cancer and have had the Whipple surgery (April 2012). While I can't respond to your specific question, I can give at least a bit of information about the importance of scans. I completed 11 months of treatments in February and my doctor wanted to wait until May before doing the first post-treatment scan. However, I had an issue with a rather large protrusion in my ab area that we thought could be a hernia, so a CT scan was ordered just 2 weeks after I finished treatments. It didn't reveal a hernia (just one of the ":re-arranged organs sticking out"), but shockingly - to me at least - it revealed a lesion in my sacrum bone. A subsequent MRI found the lesion as "suspicious for metastatic cancer", so I had a biopsy and that was positive for metastasized pancreatic cancer. A full body bone scan revealed (thank heavens!) that this site was the only one and so I will have cyberknife radiation treatments to get rid of it. But, the point is that the scan found something very unexpected. Sometimes what's found can be treated and, I guess, sometimes treatment is contraindicated. However, speaking strictly for me, I'd rather risk the extra radiation exposure from the scans that might reveal something serious, as it did in this particular case. Regards to you and your Dad. JMS

      over 3 years ago
    • kelley_gleason's Avatar

      I'm going to guess that they watch it so see if it changes via scans too. To go into the lung and biopsy can be a hard procedure. I've done both, a Whipple and a VATS surgery (to cut out a tumor in the lung) and I thought the VATS was much harder than I expected and it turned out to be benign.

      over 3 years ago
    • Russ' Avatar

      I am a 12 yr pancreatic cancer survivor and as SueRae1 said, I too believe that it is protocol for 90 days the first 2 yrs, and then 6months the next 2yrs, and then once a year.


      over 3 years ago
    • joyce's Avatar

      Hilary, I don't know the answer to your question. I just want you to know that I am praying that those spots are not cancer. Whatever the outcome, I know that your father is so blessed to have a daughter who loves him so much. We all love our fathers, but the closeness that you have expressed is truly something special and your are lucky to have each other.

      over 3 years ago
    • Clyde's Avatar

      I can only refer to a journey another member here passed on to me. Almost 20 years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer, beat it back and was considered in remission. After several years of watching, with no change, they stopped being so careful. They caught the recurrence at stage 4.

      You want the scans. They are an early alert system. No real difference than using turn signals which most of the time are unnecessary, but can safe your life on rare occasions. I don't want to take chances on missing that one time so I always use my turn signals and get the scans. Its not like they hurt, just that awful stuff to drink.

      over 3 years ago

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