As always, it was wonderful to connect with other NET survivors and hear their stories. However, being able to ask questions of some of our communities champions, was pretty incredible. The most notable of the panelists was Dr. Richard Warner, who I’m calling the Godfather of NETs. He was accompanied by two knowledgeable colleagues, Dr. Lynn Ratnor and Dr. Jerome Zacks. During lunch patients were allowed to ask general questions regarding treatments, surgery and lifestyle. Some of the major topics included:
Familial links – This was an especially timely topic for me as I just had an email conversation with a NET survivor, whose sibling also had a NET. Everything I’ve ever read indicates it is not a hereditary disease and Dr. Warner’s opinion is that there are links. He thinks this will be a hot topic in coming years as the incident rates rise for NETs. Then this week, the Healing NET released some information on a clinical trial looking for enrollees on this topic.
Diet and Alternative Treatments – The general consensus of the panelists was that these methods should not be used alone, but in conjunction with treatments. And that patients should be cautious to not negatively impact any proven treatments. Dr. Warner did share some of his opinions regarding foods (and other things) that impact carcinoid syndrome:
- Nasal spray
- Dental shots with epinephrine
- Alcohol (Specifically port wine was mentioned)
- Fermented foods such as ripe cheeses, herring, etc.
Note: I’m sure this list should be longer, but these are the items he mentioned.
There was also discussion about products such as CBD oil, alkaline water, plant based diets and excluding sugar. Being the scientists that they are, they would not stand behind anything that hasn’t been studied and proven.
Gallium-68 – There was some discussion and explaination about this newly approved scan and it’s ability to detect small tumors often undetectable by CTs and MRIs. The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation has put together a nice page of information and locations where this is available.
Xermelo – A newly approved drug to be used in conjunction with Lanreotide or Sandostatin for uncontrolled carcinoid syndrome. Read the FDA approval here.
It was a really nice few hours and I did learn some new things.
Then Monday, I had my very first Gallium-68 scan at Albert Einstein-Montefiore Cancer Center and wanted to chronicle the process for others.
Setting up the scan wasn’t too complicated. The most unnerving part was when I was told I’d have to pay upfront for the test and they would reimburse when/if my insurance covered the scan. Fortunately, my insurance came through at the last minute and I did not have to cough up $3,400. Can we all just pause for a moment and say, Thank You to the Insurance Gods.
I received several calls ahead of time cautioning me this is an extreme fast for four hours. Normally, I fast for six, so four is a walk in the park. After my Uber dropped me off at the wrong address, in the Bronx, in the rain, I eventually figured it out and made it just in time to my appointment.
I was called back right away for them to start an IV, which is always a fun process for me since I’m hard stick. Normally, the average number of sticks is four and they did it in three, so that’s pretty good.
As soon as I was hooked up, two gloved doctors appeared with a thick metal tube full of radioactive liquid they injected into my veins. It wasn’t long, but it felt like fire going through my veins. They told me that’s unusual, which is becoming the story of my life. I was cautioned sometimes people can become nauseated after the injection. Fortunately, that did not happen to me.
After they emptied the tube, everyone quickly left the room and I relaxed and read as radioactivity flowed through my veins.
An hour later, someone showed up to escort me into the scan room.
As far as the actual scan, it was a piece of cake, compared to an MRI. There was plenty of room between my body and the machine. The hardest part was lying still with my arms above my head for 45 minutes. I had them shut the lights off so I could take a little nap.
Then it was over and I was instructed to drink a lot of water to flush my system. I was pretty wiped out the rest of the day, which I’m not sure was due to the scan, the rain, the coldness, the lack of sleep, the excessive amount of walking NYC demands and/or the emotional/mental drain. Probably all those things, so we ordered in and finally emerged Tuesday and Wednesday evening for a bit of fun in the city.
If you’re interested in learning more about Gallium-68 scans, I recommend the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation website.