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Prostate Cancer

Scans for prostate cancer

Patients describe their experiences of ultrasound and other scans.

There are several types of scan which give pictures of the inside of the body. Some of these (ultrasound / Trans-Rectal Ultrasound Scan TRUS) look at the prostate gland and bladder. While others (bone scan, MRI, CAT scan) look at other parts of the body to see if the cancer has spread there. Some of the men we interviewed mentioned that they had had ultrasound scans.  

 

Describes how maintaining a full bladder for the scan was uncomfortable.

Describes how maintaining a full bladder for the scan was uncomfortable.

Age at interview: 64
Sex: Male
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I think there were 3 or 4 of us in the waiting room and of course we had to drink gallons of water and not go to the loo so one can imagine there were 3 or 4 of us all sitting there cross legged praying that our appointments were not going to be late. Anyway in I went, the scan was done across the two sides, and it wasn't until he put it on my stomach that I thought I was actually going to pee all over him but it didn't happen I'm pleased to say. I then went along to have my flow tested.

So I didn't realise they scan you from outside, not from inside?

No from outside both sides and then on your stomach and of course if you've been waiting to go to the loos for yonks it can be a problem. Anyway I didn't disgrace myself but I then went into the room to pee into a bucket to test the flow and I couldn't go and I was desperate to go. And the nurse came in, expecting to take everything away and say goodbye to me, only to find that I hadn't even started and it was some time before I did. So I realised that that was pretty uncomfortable, that experience. I then had an appointment with the GP.
 
 

Explains the process taken with an ultrasound scan.

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Explains the process taken with an ultrasound scan.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 63
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Ultrasound, well the image of the bladder is taken using ultrasounds and the reflection from ultrasounds, rather like the asdic system that was used for submarines many years ago. The picture can be formed by sound echoes I understand. I've no technicality of it but I understand that's the principle. So rather than use X-rays or whatever a picture can be formed with the ultrasound showing the shape, the size of the bladder.

So they just move something over your stomach?

A jelly over the stomach to make better contact, I believe, with the skin so there are no sort of air pockets between the device and the skin and with that the ultrasound penetrates. The reflections are picked up and the image can be formed I think just like pregnant women have the scans to show their unborn child, I think it's the same sort of thing. As I say I know nothing about the technicality but that I believe is the method used. So a picture was formed and afterwards one empties the bladder and has the scan again so I think the bladder size empty and full can be ascertained and I think that's a significant factor yet again in the sort of search for the problem. So I don't think that turned up with anything in particular that was concerning, so then thought well perhaps it's a prostate problem.
 

Other men we interviewed described isotope bone scans, CT scans and MRI scans. Some men were not sure exactly what type of scan had been used, but all were adamant that although scans might be uncomfortable or claustrophobic they were not painful.

 

Assures that the scan is totally painless but some could find it claustrophobic.

Assures that the scan is totally painless but some could find it claustrophobic.

Age at interview: 70
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 67
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Can you describe the scan you mentioned, was it a CT?

There were 2 scans actually, there was a CT scan and an MRI scan. The CT scan involved an injection into the arm, a normal injection. I had to wait for 3 hours and during that time I was free to go outside and walk around the city, do anything I wanted and then report back again. I was then asked to lie on a table and without any movement on my part the scanning camera scanned my body from head to toe. I don't know what they were looking for but again I can assure anybody it was totally painless. The MRI scan was the scan which I assume was scanning the softer tissues of the body and it involved lying on a table and the table was moveable in that you were put into a tube. Now it would appear that some people could be claustrophobic in that situation but you simply say to the operator 'Do you mind if I put my head at the open end,' and they agree with that very, very quickly, no problem. It takes 20 minutes and they will play your own CD, again no pain at all. The end result in my particular case was that the consultant said that they were going to give me radiotherapy.

 

Describes his experience of the MRI.

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Describes his experience of the MRI.

Age at interview: 56
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 56
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On the MRI?

I was given good information beforehand and I suppose it could be problematic for some people. You are placed in quite a narrow tunnel which does feel a bit claustrophobic and I can quite understand that some people might find that difficult, however you are reassured by the nurses and you can communicate so if things become too difficult you can certainly ask to be taken out. It's very noisy as the magnets are moved around and even with hearing protection which you are given that can be a bit unsettling. But having been in other environments which are unpleasant, I didn't find it particularly difficult. So it's not uncomfortable, it's a little claustrophobic and a little noisy but I was happy to almost go to sleep and let things happen. It does last rather longer than you expect; you are placed in different positions while the images are taken and some of the tests themselves last for several minutes so you actually have to lay still in this little tunnel with rather loud clunking noises going on around you.

 

Describes how the bone scan caused him some anxiety.

Describes how the bone scan caused him some anxiety.

Age at interview: 56
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 55
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I had to go in, I think about 11 in the morning to have an injection, some radioactive, I'm not too sure what it was but it was something that then subsequently would show up in the blood test. So I had to go and have the injection, go away for 2 or 3 hours and come back and have a full body scan. It was in those few hours I had a pub lunch with my parents which was surreal really, you were all trying to be jolly and keep each other going but it was a nice thing to have done, I'm glad we did it. 

And then I went with my wife back to the hospital to have the full scan, I think it took about 40 minutes, 20 minutes doing the top of me and 20 minutes doing underneath me, photographing everything. Then again of course you never know any of the results of anything. That funnily enough unnerved me more than anything because the nurse said, or the lady, the radiographer who did the pictures said 'I'll be with you in 5 minutes then you'll be able to go and I'll pass things on to your surgeon.' She obviously got delayed, it was more like 25 minutes till she came back to see me and somehow that built up, it's amazing how you suddenly lost your bottle and I did, I got very, very nervous in that time, thinking oh they've found this, they've done that, they want to have me back to do more things and anything, you're susceptible to anything unnerving you.

And the day had gone smoothly, the injection in the morning was fine, going off to have a meal with your wife and your parents, that was fine, everybody was very jolly and it all went well, had a nice meal but then suddenly you can lose your nerve. 

 

Explains the differences between the bone scan and the MRI.

Explains the differences between the bone scan and the MRI.

Age at interview: 70
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 69
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Did they do any bone scans at that stage?

Yes they did a bone scan as well and I've had 3 bone scans and they've all been clear.

Would you mind explaining what's that's like for other people?

Well it really is, it's really like having an xray almost, you lay upon this table and you go into this machine and it comes right across your body. It's like a cylinder that you lie inside and you go through this steadily as it maps your body and your bones, it goes right through. If you're claustrophobic it can worry you a little bit but it's really quick. And the MRI is more worrying because you're inside that tube a long time, that can be very worrying. But the bone scan was relatively painless, well it was painless, no it was just the sensation of lying down and going slowly, being fed slowly through this tube so that they can cover the whole body. But there's no pain or anything like that attached it, no sensation even.


 

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated July 2017.


 

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