My First PET-CT Scan Experience at PPUM

I’ve never done a PET-CT scan before. It’s not part of the standard protocol for my case of Stage 3 Colon Cancer. However, during a routine CT scan earlier this year, doctors found increasing cysts in my liver and thus I got sent for PET-CT scan in PPUM.

For the record, the liver specialist and oncologist were not concerned about the cysts but I’m doing the scan anyway as precaution (like 7 months after).

I’m not too familiar how different CT scan and PET scan are but here’s how differently I feel about PET-CT scan:

  1. More tedious
  2. More boring
  3. More “interesting”
The Preparation

To prepare for the scan, I had to avoid exercise (yay?) and sugar for 48 hours prior. It’s fine, except avoiding sugar was kinda confusing for me. Like can I drink fruit juice?

I was also required to have enough rest 48 hours prior. Two nights before the scan, I somehow slept for 10 hours. But the night before, I only slept for 6 hours. Oops.

Anyway, I made my way to the hospital hungry and thirsty since I had to fast for 6 hours prior to the scan. It’s fine.

As usual, I was in a sea of elderly ✌️. Hope my presence made them feel better about having to be in the hospital 😐.

The nurse measured my height, weight, blood pressure and glucose level. Ouch. I don’t remember being checked for glucose level before. The prick on the finger was something!

After I got changed, I got back to the waiting area until I got called in by a medical officer for consultation. The usual questions: medical history and health status. Oh and he inserted IV line on my arm. Not too bad but still ouchie.

IV site, hospital
Been a while since I got an IV site. Not my favourite. 
The Waiting

I was then ushered to a room to rest and wait. The room was dark. There were 4 people in there. Some resting on lazy chairs. Some on beds. I got a bed and when the nurse left me, she said, “if possible, don’t play with phone.” I heard this countless times after because I was holding my phone all the time when they saw me 😬.

For the record, I did put my phone away for the 40 minutes or so I was left in the room.

When they called my name again, I was brought to another room. This time, it’s a small room with only one bed. I was left alone for a short while with the lights on 😎.

The small room to quarantine me before the scan. 
Being left alone means getting to take selfie! 

Then a nurse came in and injected saline into my IV site. She later brought in a small metal box and took out a syringe encapsuled in another metal casing. That’s the radioactive agent! It was injected into my body and they noted down the time.

This was just the saline. I didn’t take photo of the radioactive agent. 

It’s important to note the time because we had to allow the agent to travel through my body for about an hour before scanning. However, we can’t delay much after the hour as well because the radioactive agent decays by half every 2 hours.

Something even more interesting happened after that! A lady walked in with a scanning device and scanned me for radiation 😅. I felt like I just walked out of Chernobyl or something.

The rest and wait resumed after she left the room. Omg. By then, I was feeling restless and bored. Not sure why I couldn’t sleep. Maybe the occasional screams I hear from patients outside the room were disturbing.

When the one hour was up, I waited for another 10 minutes before finally opening the door and asking if they’d take me soon. I was actually on IV drip so I dragged my drip stand with me. Haha. I was so bored. And though it’s unlikely, I was afraid they forgot about me too. 😅

They reassured me that they didn’t forget me. Asked me to go clear my bladder in a toilet cordoned off from the public because it’s radioactive. Right.

When I went back to my (lonely) room, the nurse asked me to lie on my left side, facing the wall. I thought they wanted my radioactive agent to flow towards my left, where my tumor was. I was wrong. Another nurse came in and injected 15ml of something into me through my buttock 😑. Well, I didn’t expect this.

The Scan

When I finally got called in for the screening, I realized it’s such a big machine and there were so many people behind the glass, overseeing the entire procedure.

I lied down on my back. They made sure I’m lying flat and positioned me right at the middle of the table. They then stuffed something next to my head and strapped my chin and forehead on the table. Wow. Confirmed I didn’t dare to move after that because they took so much precaution to restrain me. But I couldn’t stop shivering; I was cold.

Anyway, I got pushed in and out of the donuts for a bit before they injected things through my IV line. It was painful but manageable at first. But I should have suspected it’d get worse when the person holding my arm gripped harder. It got so painful I let out a scream. At that point, it made sense to me why I heard so many screams outside my room when I was quarantined 😭.

Thankfully, the pain didn’t last long. In fact, I quickly forgot how painful and how it hurt shortly after the injection. The next thing that occupied my mind was “how long will this last?”

I mean initially, I was amused by the machine as I was pushed in and out through the “donuts”. I observed the rotating scanners. I listened to the machinery sound. But this whole process took 20-30 minutes and they didn’t move me all the time so at one point, I felt like they forgot about me. Hahaha. And I was finally falling asleep.

When it was over, I was afraid that my arms would have become numbed for being held above my head for so long but they were fine. Phew.

The Waiting Again

The next and final step of this PET-CT scan was to get quarantined again. Lol. Luckily I was allowed to use my phone already so I was slightly occupied. A young cancer survivor friend happened to be in the same place to make appointment for his scan so we chatted from across the quarantine zone. The lady with scanning device came and took her reading as well.

The lady and her device. We had to stand in front of the divider during the reading. Otherwise, we were off limit behind the divider. Meh. 

And I was finally released to go home about 2 hours later. I had to stay away from children and pregnant women for 24 hours because the radiation level from my body may be harmful to them. Otherwise, I just have to drink more water and get back to life.

Ha ha ha. I won’t miss doing PET-CT scan 😅.

P/s I’d collect and review the scan result with my oncologist during our quarterly consultation next month 🤞.

10 thoughts on “My First PET-CT Scan Experience at PPUM”

  1. Thanks alot anna for sharing the experiences with mother just go throught the ct scan at ppum but she don’t know how to tell us what she had there..i just knew about it from you..thank you so much.

    1. Hi! I’m doing great. I’m pregnant now, 4 years after cancer and surgery with Dr Samuel Tay. He was the first recommendation by 2 contacts I asked upon diagnosis so I was assured to choose him as my surgeon. As a patient, I had a good experience with him. He was very caring and gentle when managing me. My surgery scar healed beautifully.

  2. Went thru your blog, reading posting regarding hiking around Selangor and KL. Suddenly stumbled upon this post.

    Stay strong and keep writing. They are nice to read. I am not into hiking. Haha.

  3. I somehow bump into your blog through some random searches (can’t remember what I was looking for), anyway, I’m touched by your story. Keep up the fight and I know you can go through this! 🙂

  4. You are so strong to be fighting cancer your age! I bet if I’m the one, I would’ve been really beaten up 😫 I’m here to let you know that you’re great! And keep fighting! 😊

    1. Thanks, Anna for the words of encouragement! The truth is, when cancer hits and fighting is the only option you have, you just gotta fight 😂.

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