a man lies in a bone scanner

Participating in a Clinical Trial - Part 2

Last updated: November 2021

Read Part I of Participating in a Clinical Trial.

Scans, scans, scans

As I mentioned in Part 1, I had a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan a little over a week ago. This scan was required and paid for by the study. I had to go in an hour early to have a radioactive tracer injected via IV. Since cancer cells have a higher metabolic rate than normal cells, they show up as bright spots in the scan as the tracer will collect in the areas of higher activity. I had two scans, one from my legs to my feet, the other from head to my pelvis. Each scan took about 20 minutes.

The study also required a CT (Computed Tomography) scan and a bone scan, and those were scheduled for the same day. I was glad to find out that the CT scan no longer required the barium oral contrast, as now the contrast is injected by IV during the scan. I started the day by getting my IV in place, then I had the tracer for the bone scan injected. There’s a three hour wait after getting the tracer injected before you start the bone scan. So before the bone scan I had the CT scan, which only took about 20 minutes. I spent a few hours relaxing before heading in for my bone scan. The bone scan was short, about 15-20 minutes.

The follow up...

The day after my CT and bone scans, my oncologist called me at home to let me know that my scans showed that there was no clinically significant change from the previous year and we were good to go on the study. At my follow up appointment the following Monday, I was randomized into the study (intervention) arm of the trial. That means that I’ll be doing both chemo and taking abiraterone (Zytiga), which is really what I wanted. (Not that I love chemo, but the potential benefit was too great to not want it.) Before I left the cancer center for the day, we scheduled my first treatment.

What’s next?

Like my experience with docetaxel (Taxotere) a year earlier, I’ll be doing six cycles of treatment with cabazitaxel (Jevtana), going in once every three weeks for an injection. Before we start that, I’ll need to go in to have a port-a-cath (also called a port) installed. More on that next time.

In a few weeks I’ll start treatment, and I’m finding that it’s not so terrifying the second time around. I’ll compare the experiences in Part 3. Docetaxel and cabazitaxel are in the same family of chemotherapy drugs, so I’m not expecting much difference. Oddly enough, I’ll be on the same exact schedule I was the year before. So I can do Thanksgiving, but not Christmas because it’s right in the middle of my nadir. Nadir is when your white blood cell and platelet counts are low and you’re more susceptible to infection. This usually happens about a week after treatment and will generally last for four or five days. The best thing to do is to stay home and avoid people. As I said, it only lasts a few days and you’re usually tired and want to stay home and rest anyway.

I’ll be starting the abiraterone (Zytiga) on the first treatment day. I’ll need to get it from the cancer center’s specialty pharmacy and it will conveniently be delivered to my home.

Read Part 3 of Doug's clinical trial experience here.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on September 19, 2021, Doug Sparling passed away. Doug’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.

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