Here are partial results of my October 2005 PET scan, taken on the fifth anniversary of my diagnosis of malignant melanoma, which turned out to be Stage III, with evidence of spread into the lymph system. I had a 60% chance of surviving 5 years, so I’m quite pleased to get to this point and find that there is no evidence of metastases.
For those interested, I had a 1.8mm Breslow depth and a Clark level of 3. I had radioscintigraphy, which found sentinel nodes in both armpits, and a wide area excision of the original site, on my upper back. A sentinel node biopsy found a 0.2 mm micrometastasis on my left side and a single cell on my right. After some debate, we ended up going with bilateral axillary node dissection, removing a further seven lymph nodes from my left armpit and eight from my right. They found another micrometastasis in one of my right lymph nodes – the side we were considering not doing. A CT scan found no sizeable remote metastasis.
Because of these results, I decided to go with interferon therapy. I started with 50 IU, five times a week, until my liver tests showed the strain after about 3 weeks. I then went with 25 IU, three times a week. The doses where so high because I’m a big guy – I had a body surface area of 2 square meters. I took interferon for eight months.
This scan was performed at Radiology Medical Group in San Diego on a Siemens ECAT ACCEL scanner. I got the results on a CD that included the CD Ambassador reading software by Dr Systems. I found this software a little difficult to use, and its image export functionality was horrible. I learned a lot about medical imaging files at David Clunie’s excellent DICOM Information page, and am using the resources I found through there to access the raw data, but until then I built the image below. Using the CD Ambassador viewer, I took screenshots of each image in the sequence and edited and assembled the image using Gimp 2.2.
If you found this page because youâ€™ve been diagnosed with malignant melanoma or know someone who has, Iâ€™d be more than happy to answer any questions about my experience. I’ve written more about the actual PET scan experience here. I know that when I was first diagnosed, I was starved for information.
The image is a large animated gif, about 1.6 MB, so it will take a long time to load on dial-up. I don’t have any other methods of posting animation, but I’ll look into a more practical alternative. Well, here it is:
I want to thank the following:
- My ex-wife, Raquel, for spotting the suspicious black spot and pushing me to go see a doctor about it; and for sticking with me through the very trying period of my treatment.
- Dr. Richard Scott, Dermatology, for identifying the disease.
- Dr. Michael McCue, Surgery, for cutting it out of me.
- Dr. Lynn Bemiller, Hematology/Oncology, for watching over me during the interferon therapy.
- Dr. Jurgen Kogler, Oncology, for his continuing supervision and treatment.
- All my friends, family and co-workers, who provided me with so much support and encouragement.
You saved my life.