As some of you may remember, a few years ago my father was treated for a malignancy of his perotid gland (near his left ear) in 2013. He also had treatment for skin cancer on his face in 2014. And now, as we enter 2016, we are facing another cancer diagnosis.
Later last year my dad had some scans done as part of his normal cancer follow up care. There was “something” on the chest CT, but it really didn’t look like much and the decision was made to repeat the test in a few months and see if there was any change. He repeated his CT scan at the end of January and it was determined that a PET scan was now necessary because that “something” had turned in to a little more. My brain, of course, immediately went to cancer… why else would they request a PET scan?
So that test was done a two Fridays ago, and by that following Monday the doctor had called with results. It was definitely some sort of cancer, but it wasn’t clear from imaging what kind. We had to wait a few days for the doctor to meet with the weekly review board on next steps. It was determined that Dad should have a consultation with a thoracic surgeon to review the options for a biopsy.
We waited another week and finally got in to see the thoracic surgeon today. She confirmed again that it is cancer and explained that the biopsy was necessary to confirm what type so we can make informed decisions on treatment. She explained that the cancer is in the lining of the rib cage ~ in the pleura. She described “lumps and bumps” in the lymph nodes and vessels in this lining. Possible causes were identified as a spread from a prior cancer, a new cancer, or mesothelioma. (After some discussion, we came to agreement that Dad likely had contact with asbestos when working with insulation many years ago at a lumber company.)
The options presented to us were a) do nothing, b) do a needle biopsy, or c) do a surgical biopsy. Her recommendation was the needle biopsy as a starting point. We are trying to avoid surgery at all costs, given Dad’s age and health. As such, the needle biopsy has the least risk, but, unfortunately, the sample size is smaller than surgical, so there’s a chance they won’t get enough to actually confirm a diagnosis. If that happens, we would have to decide on whether we should take the risk of the surgical biopsy.
Dad was comfortable with the decision and was very pragmatic about “doing what we need to do.” We are back to wait-mode in terms of getting the biopsy scheduled, but it’s anticipated this will occur in the next 1-2 weeks. Then we’ll wait for results and see what our options and next steps are.
We appreciate your prayers and good thoughts as we wait.
(Please note that my father gave me permission to share these details.)
IMDb: The Waiting Game (1999)