Saturday, August 11, 2007

Whole Body MRI

I ended up canceling the chest X-ray and just doing the whole body MRI. I didn’t have time for the X-ray and I thought I could do it later if the MRI showed something suspicious.

I don’t think I’d recommend this scan to anyone. It was no fun, and could be downright scary to some people, I think. I’d seen photos of the machine and read the pamphlets that tell you how it’s done, but nothing prepared me for the actual test.

They had my lie down on a very narrow slab – not a big deal since it’s the same for all the other scans, plus radiation therapy. It was the next bit that was a bit of a shocker. They put these rib-cage like braces down the entire length of my body, pinning me down like an insect. There were 5 pieces – one for the crown, one for the face and neck, upper chest, lower chest, then one huge one for the entire lower body. I felt like some sort of freak show, trapped inside this sci-fi skeletal frame prison. And the radiographers hadn’t even prepared me for this. They just started pinning various parts of my body down with these things, without so much as an explanation of what they were doing or what these things were.

The test took about one hour inside the 60-cm wide tunnel, with various loud noises ranging from security alarm to fog horn to jackhammer. I had headphones with music on but the machine’s sounds are so loud, even Jimi Hendrix on full decibel wouldn’t have drowned out the noise. I had to lie perfectly still the entire time. It’s hard to lie completely still for an hour even in the comfort of your own bed, without the giant rib-cage, narrow tunnel, and loud banging sounds in your ears.

There were several parts where they told me to hold my breath, but they didn’t tell me for how long. Twenty-five seconds can seem like a long time if you’re not told ahead of time you’re going to be holding your breath for that long. I started counting after a while so I knew when the end was nearing, but this is something they should tell the patient. Not only are you putting a patient inside a tiny tunnel with a jackhammer, you’re telling her to hold her breath. Indefinitely!

Note to self: Write a feedback letter to the radiology department telling them they have to communicate better with patients about this test. I can just see some of my fellow cancer patients panicking during this test.

The good thing about this test, though, is that there’s no radiation involved and it covers the bones, liver, and brain. It’s not so great for the lungs though. It also costs a lot -- S$4,100. I think it’s much more expensive in the U.S. Well, I guess we’ll see Monday when we get the results, just how good a scan this is.

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