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help me understand...

littlejulie's picture
Posts: 311
Joined: Mar 2004

I've read many postings that people were first treated as stage 3 but in surgery they find out they are stage 4. I don't get this! Why are there so many tests first to find out if it's anywhere else? My mother has ct scans, xrays, liver scans...the works. Wouldn't those tests pick up cancer anywhere else prior to surgery? My mother's surgery is on July 8th.

Posts: 114
Joined: Mar 2004

julie, Before my surgery in February, I had CT and ultrasound and was assured by my GP that it had not spread, only to find out after surgery that 8 of 25 lymph nodes and two small liver mets. When I asked why these weren't picked up before surgery, my oncologist said two resaons. One they are small, microscopic in nodes and 1-2 cm in liver. Two, the cancer in my liver did not appear as typical cancer. It was not as dense as cancer should be and looked on CT as normal tissue. However, since then have had two MRI's of liver and both picked up the cancer. I also had a PET scan done after surgery which also picked up the tumor on the liver. Mike

Posts: 33
Joined: May 2004

as Mike said, some things are just too small to be picked up. our docs recommend both CT and PET scans b/c PET picks up the smallest things but CT may be more accurate for the liver. i know all about the stress of uncertainty.

littlejulie's picture
Posts: 311
Joined: Mar 2004

thanks for responding. my mother had a mri, a liver ultrasound and a ct. i would think that one of tests would have picked it up. i guess i'll have to wait for thursday. the doctor did say that it's most likely in her lymphnodes. one node right beside the tumor looks enlarged on the ct scan and mri.

jsabol's picture
Posts: 1156
Joined: Dec 2003

Hi Julie, I can understand your worry and confusion. Even as a nurse, it's hard to comprehend all the info that gets thrown at us, and it's hard to ask questions in the middle of just trying to get your head around all the stuff.
Prior to surgery, I had a 1 centimeter polyp that was malignant. We anticipated surgery and a stage 1 diagnosis. The polyp had not even penetrated beyond the submucosa lining of the bowel. I also had a CT scan which looked clear. Unfortunately, I had 1 microscopically postive node, which even the surgeon said looked OK to her naked eye. The problem is that all cells are very tiny, and it can be impossible to detect disease until tissue is examined under a microscope. The waiting is awful, but I found that once I had my stage III diagnosis, I just focused on what needed to be done.
Hope all goes well for your mom. She's lucky to have your concern and support. Best of luck to her on the 8th, I'll be thinking of you both.
Take care of yourself, too. Judy

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