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suecris

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I landed in the hospital last week with some small pulmonary embolisms. The CT scan also showed a 4x2 cm mass at the bottom of my left lung. I had been diagnosed with pneumonia earlier in the week based on chest pain and an x-ray, but really didn't have pneumonia symptoms. I'm 60 and smoked for 40 years. They tried to break it to me that I most likely have lung cancer. I'm scheduled for a PET scan but not for four weeks. Just trying to get my head around this.

I have had rapidly progressing arthritis the past few years,  and was supposed to be having a couple of orthopedic surgeries this summer. I have to use a walker now. Is it likely that these ortho issues are also the cancer, and just couldn't be seen properly in the x-rays, or is it just a different issue?

I know you guys aren't medical experts, but you probably have a good feel for these things.

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Hi  Suecris and welcome here. I'm sorry to hear about your lung mass.

The PET scan should help with diagnosis. Are they scanning your whole body including the arthritic joints? I suppose joint issues could be cancer, but I think that would be unusual. Have you seen a pulmonologist? My pulmonologist was able to tell  me a lot from the appearance of my lung nodule and other oddities in my lungs. My nodule was very small. it was discovered in a routine CT which was being done to watch for metastases from a different (non-lung) cancer. She said that it didn't appear to be a metastasis, but it did have an appearance typical of cancer, which it turned out to be, even though it didn't light up on the PET scan. Seems like some small, slow growing cancers don't. The pulmonologist also told me that some scarring in my lungs showed that I had probably had Valley Fever in the past. If you haven't seen a pulmonologist yet, I suggest that you ask for a referral to one. 

You'll probably get input from others here also.These forums are  a good place to get information and support.

Bridget O

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Thanks for your reply, Bridget. Yes, I saw a pulmonologist in the hospital and he is the one who ordered the full body PET scan. That kind of reinforces my idea that he thinks the ortho issues may be metastases. I won't talk to him again till after the scan, though. I didn't discuss the appearance of my mass with him. 

On the other hand, there's a TON of arthritis in my family, but no cancer, so I may just have gotten lucky and have both. That would actually be a good thing, I guess.

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Hi, Sue,

I wouldn't assume he thinks the joint issues are metastasis.  I had a PET/CT scan ordered after my original scan showed a suspicious nodule.  The PET/CT can often detect metastatic activity anywhere it's likely to turn up (other than the brain).  Mine went from the skull to the thighs without any other symptoms.  I was reassured when the suspicious nodule was the only thing to "light up" on the scan.

Has anyone talked to you about a biopsy of the mass?

Glad you found us--this is a great group of folks.  

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Suecris,

I want to chime in on the arthritis part of things...my mom has rheumatoid arthritis (if your arthritis is different, this may not apply, but I thought I would share anyway).  When her initial nodules were found we of course freaked out and it was awful to have to wait for the next scan 3 months later to see if they were still there/grown/etc.  During the wait time, my mom met with her rheumatologist.  He told her that her nodules could definitely be a symptom of her rheumatoid arthritis.  He has has several patients that have had over 100 nodules in their lungs and they come and go as part of the disease.  Now, I realize you described the possible cancerous thing in your lungs as a mass, not a nodule, but we have had doctors refer to my mom's nodules as masses while speaking to us.  So, what I am trying to say is that your "mass" and joint pain could very well be related to the arthritis.  

Please don't assume that just because the pulmonologist has ordered a PET scan that he is assuming it is cancer and that it has metastasized.  Having a PET scan as part of a suspicion of cancer is not an uncommon practice and many docs use it in their standard of care.  As we are looking for immediate answers during the stressful time of the possible diagnosis of lung cancer, it's easy to read into our docs every action/breath/look/etc.  Try not to do that.  We have done that throughout my mom's battle and we have been wrong every time!  It's best to simply ask the docs your questions and share their concerns.  

 

 

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Excellent observation from Steff that one cancer is mentioned, it's easy to read "cancer" into every move the doc makes. It's also easy (and normal, I think) to be nervous about every lump, bump and pain we have. I certainly do that!  I have arthritis in my lower back- not as severe as yours sounds , Suecris- and it took a sudden turn for the worse a year or so ago, but it's been checked out and it's arthritis, with some degenerative disc disease  and muscle pain, not cancer. I have to remind myself that people with cancer also get a full range of other issues! 

Bridget

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Terrific news!  Now, you might want to talk to your doctor about whether you should be in a screening program for lung cancer.  That's how my (very early) cancer was caught.  Given your age and your smoking history, you should qualify for the screenings.  I'm pretty much convinced the screening scans saved my life.  :) 

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I know, Teri (Terry?) - I think I'm going to remember this scare for a while and listen to my doctor next time she suggests a screening x-ray. She suggested one last year and I blew her off. 

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X-rays have been determined to be not that effective in identifying early lung cancer.  The screening I'm talking about is called "low-dose CT scan."  Here's a website that explains it (I have one of the stories featured on the site):  http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/saved-by-the-scan/  :)

 

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