Volume 5 Issue 4 - Nurse Patricia Peat

Originally published in Issue 4 2006 icon

Nurse Patricia Peat

Patricia Peat is a registered nurse. Following years of experience in oncology, combined with research into natural approaches to cancer she now runs Cancer Options.

Cancer Options is a specialised team of practitioners who provide individual consultancy and coaching into treatment and making decisions for all approaches to cancer.

Details of their services are available at www.canceroptions.co.uk or by calling 0845 009 2041.


I am confused by the different scans available, can you explain them?


All the different scans achieve different things in terms of analysis, so as briefly as I can:

CT scans use x-rays and can show several types of tissuelung, bone, soft tissue and blood vesselswith great clarity. They give a 2D black and white image of cross sections of the area; these are the most frequently used alongside MRI scans.

MRI uses a combination of magnetic field and radio waves to create cross-sectional images of your head and body.  It is particularly useful for imaging brain and spinal cord problems and can take pictures from every angle, whereas a CT can only show pictures horizontally. The difference between normal and abnormal tissue is often clearer on the MRI scan than on the CT scan, though doctors will choose the scan according to what they are particularly looking for. You cannot have an MRI if you have a pacemaker or some metal prosthesis in the body.

A PET scan demonstrates the biological function of the body before anatomical changes take place, so can pick things up earlier and judge the amount of disease activity. A short-lived radioactive tracer isotope which decays by emitting a positron, and which has been chemically incorporated into a metabolically active molecule, is injected into the veins, and the scan is carried out a little later. PET scans are more expensive than CT and MRI; the amount of scanners in the country is increasing, but there are by no means as many as ordinary scanners. Your doctor may choose to use a PET scan for example if there is uncertainty whether an area has cancer activity or not. They would ideally use both PET and CT for the most accurate information. They would not use PET scans for routine scanning at the moment.
Electron Beam Tomography is a progression of CT, which shows higher quality imaging. It uses electron-magnetically deflected electron beam, the beam only enters from the back rather than sweeping the whole body, so there is lower exposure to radiation dosages. It provides colour, three D images rather than two-dimensional.  This is only currently available privately in London.


A bone scan looks for abnormalities in the bones.  You may hear it called a radionuclide scan.  It is usually done in the medical physics department or ’Nuclear Medicine’ Department of the hospital.  A bone scan can look at a particular joint or bone.  In cancer diagnosis, it is more usual to scan the whole body.  The scan involves one injection, but apart from that, it is painless.

A radionuclide (sometimes called a radioisotope or isotope) is a chemical, which emits a type of radioactivity called gamma rays. A tiny amount of radionuclide is put into the body, usually by an injection into a vein. It can detect areas of damage, infection or cancer in the bones.

Most scans are available privately, most insurance companies cover scans ordered by your doctor. You are not able to go for a scan without a doctor ordering it.  If you are looking at scanning as a screening procedure, most medical insurance companies provide them now under their normal screening process.


Is sarcoma a cancer? I thought cancers were called carcinomas.

Sarcoma is the general term used for cancers that develop in fat, muscle, nerve, fibrous tissues surrounding joints, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. There are then all sorts of different classifications, according to where in the body they have originated. Carcinoma is a general term for cancers originating in other organs. With each classification you get a wide variety of sub-classifications, which pertain to the individuality of the tumour. Some cancers are named because of their appearance under the microscope, for example with lung cancer, there is small cell, large cell and oat cell which all pertains to their appearance but though they are all lung cancers, they all behave differently and respond to different types of treatment.



Is acupuncture useful during cancer treatment?


I have always found acupuncture enormously valuable with both radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It can help deal with all sorts of side effects, as well as helping support the energy channels in the body. With radiotherapy, retained heat in the tissues is a major cause of damage; acupuncture is great for releasing heat from tissue.   Many oncology units now have complementary therapies available to support treatment, so check with your unit to see if they have. If you live in the London area, there is a wonderful resource at the College of Chinese Medicine who have opened a teaching clinic in St John’s Wood. If your GP refers you, they are providing a brilliant service for NHS patients.


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