I am terrified of needles; I admit it. In fact, it’s “very Carrie” to think I can kick cancer’s butt and to cry over a needle. I worked myself into an absolute tizzy worry about my lung biopsy, so I thought I would share my story and help someone else feel less afraid.
Is It Always Cancer? That was my first question to the doctors. The answer is no. It could be scarring, a benign tumor, or even an infection. Don’t jump to the worst conclusion!
Will My Lung Collapse? This isn’t a stupid question at all. The hole created by the needle can let air seep out very slowly and create an air bubble, putting pressure on your lung. When children have a lung biopsy, the hole seals over almost immediately. When a 90 year old has a lung biopsy, they often have to stay in the hospital for a night to have the air sucked out to prevent a lung collapse. If you fall somewhere in the middle, chances are good that the hole created from the biopsy will seal over fairly quickly and you will get to go home. If not, you may have an overnight stay in the hospital, but you’ll be okay. The doctor will order an X-ray before you leave the hospital to make sure you can safely leave.
Spread Cancer Cells: If it is cancer, will doing a biopsy spread or “seed” the cancer cells? Well, that’s debated in medical journals. My doctor told me that no one really knows the answer to that. Common sense makes me believe that yes, if you do a biopsy and cut cells from the tumor, they could easily spread, but I’m not an oncologist. My doctor also told me that if it is cancer, not to worry, because that area will be treated for cancer anyway. Easy for him to say! Really, you don’t have much of a choice. If you want to know if it’s cancer so that you can treat it, you’ll have to have a biopsy. MRI’s, CT Scans, and PET scans can identify an abnormality but not tell you what it is.
Will I Feel It? I was given Fentanyl and Versed. Versed is an amnesiac and odds are good, you will only have fleeting memories of the experience. Your doctor’s goal should be your comfort. I was taken to a waiting area, changed into a gown, had an IV started, and wheeled to the procedure room. The doctor spent twenty minutes talking to me about what would happen and any possible complications. They didn’t even numb the area until I was given pain medication and the amnesiac. I don’t remember anything after the nurse saying, “Okay, I’ve given you the first medicine.” I don’t remember being driven home, stopping for a slushy from Sonic, or picking up my children from their grandpa’s house. So, no…you shouldn’t feel it. Odds are good, you won’t even remember most of the experience.
Can I Drive Myself? You will absolutely need a driver! You should also avoid any important decisions until the following day. Have an adult stay with you for 24 hours after receiving this type of procedure. When you wake up from the medication, you will most likely drift in and out of consciousness all day. Words don’t always make sense. For instance, I remember sitting up and asking my boyfriend to please give me some bread over and over again, while I was pointing at my drink. You’ll be pretty out of it, but it makes for a funny story later, so don’t worry. Please don’t even consider driving yourself! You could die in an accident or kill someone else, very easily!
How Long Does It Hurt? My doctor went into my lung above my heart, right above my breast. The front of my body wasn’t sore at all, but my shoulder blade felt pretty messed up for a day. It kind of felt like when you pop your back out or take a fall onto a body part. It’s sore, but not unbearable. Over the counter pain meds should make it better. It’s been 24 hours since I had my biopsy and I just did a load of laundry and mopped my kitchen. It’s not very painful. Sometimes it hurts a bit when I take a deep breath.
Blood: You may cough up a little bit of blood after your biopsy. I know that sounds really scary, doesn’t it? It’s completely normal. Your lungs can’t tell if it’s fluid or blood. So, just like any other fluid that would get into your lungs, your body is going to want to expel it. Go ahead and cough it out.
Throwing Up: Sometimes, pain medication can make you throw up. I throw up really easily so I made sure to tell my doctor about it. When you’re under any kind of anesthesia, the last thing you want to do is aspirate. I did this once during surgery and was on a respirator for almost a month! That truly is scary and painful. If you feel nauseous before the procedure, let the nurses know. Do not, under any circumstance, cheat and eat or drink after midnight the night before your biopsy. If you throw up, you don’t want anything coming up you can choke on.
I promise, a lung biopsy isn’t painful and isn’t always bad news either. My doctor told me that you could pull ten people out of his waiting room and two or three would have nodes on their lungs. Most of the time, the majority of the time, it’s nothing to be concerned about. It’s better to know if it is cancer, because you have a better chance of fighting it, the sooner you catch it. Relax, don’t work yourself up over the biopsy. It will be over before you know it and trust me, they give you some seriously good meds. Odds are good, you won’t remember a thing. I hope this helped answer your questions and addressed some of your concerns. Best of luck to you.
For More Health Topics, Visit Carrie Williams Homepage