Saturday, 11 August 2012

Getting Aggressive

Last Thursday was my latest trip to hospital. My mum came with me, which was nice - she often tries to make it over for the more "important" hospital visits (and the ones where I would be bored out of my skull if I went alone, thankfully!). We got there in ok time, I registered at the reception and we grabbed a seat in the endocrine waiting room. Mum went and got me a coffee (she is a hero) and just as I was raising it to my lips I was called in for the weighing and blood pressure tests.

Weight: 57kg fully clothed and shoe-ed, so I've lost 2kg since the beginning of May and possibly even lost a little since the beginning of July, when I weighed 57kg with no shoes on. That's probably down to the hyperthyroidism. When I first started losing weight, it was because I was on treatment that made me not hyperthyroid anymore, and my appetite dropped massively. Then after my pituitary surgery I lost a bit more weight initially and then was fairly stable for a while. So the fact that it's going down again is now probably a bad thing and due to my crazy thyroid levels. It's strange - I never expected to be one of those people whose doctors want them to stop losing weight, haha!

Resting blood pressure: good; standing blood pressure: a bit low, but fairly standard for me whilst on beta blockers. Then I was finally allowed to return to my delicious coffee.

I actually saw four endocrinologists in total, which was a personal best for me. Although I don't know whether to count one as she didn't speak. I would refer to her as the Silent Endocrinologist, but as she didn't say anything I really have no reason to mention her again.

So first we sat down with Dr Nightcap (shh, I'm stuck for ideas on what to call him) and the Silent Endocrinologist (damnit!) and he went through the basics of symptoms etc. and asked how much I'd been told about what to expect from further treatment. Then Dr Olive and The Main Endocrinologist joined the party. I am so popular!

The short of it is, the tumour has grown and they are going to do more surgery. I had previously been told it had grown "slightly" and this word was repeated. I took this to mean "It has grown a tiny bit, such that a non-medical person like yourself would likely be unable to perceive it at first glance". Then I was shown the latest MRI of my head. It has grown what I would describe as "a slightly alarming amount". You can no longer see the separate pituitary stalk. It's still a fair bit smaller than it was before my original surgery, but at that point the tumour was cystic (ie. had a lot of liquid gunk in the middle, yum) and now it looks probably solid. The good news is that it is not yet encroaching on my optic nerve and it looks like it has remained fairly central so far. You really don't want it growing off to the sides because it becomes impossible to target with surgery if it starts growing around major blood vessels. However, because it has grown a fair bit, they started to bandy around the word "aggressive". I now have an aggressive benign tumour in my head, and if that's not an oxymoron then I don't know what is.*

The Main Endocrinologist described it as "a beautiful surgical target", which I am adding to my list of Weird Compliments I Have Received From The Medical Profession (one day I will publish a book).

The sad news is that it's looking much more likely I might have to have radiotherapy. Previously radiotherapy was mentioned as an option that they would try to avoid if possible. Now it is an option edging its way onto the table. I am super not keen. Obviously I am infinitely more keen on having radiotherapy than on having my head slowly fill up with tumour, but pituitary radiotherapy is really not fun. It basically usually ends up killing off quite a bit of healthy pituitary as well as the tumour, and in the years after treatment you will almost certainly end up needing a selection of fun hormone replacements, which you're then on for life. Plus, with girls (not sure about the boys?) there's a fairly high risk of infertility. I may do a more in-depth post on pituitary radiotherapy later.

So that was a bit sad. Essentially I am back on the lanreotide injections for three months, then surgery. Surgery is a little bit complicated by the fact that I have a persistant sinus/nose infection ever since my last operation, so I will need to be checked out and possibly treated by the Ear Nose Throat team before they let me have surgery. This may apparently involve sticking a camera up my nose. Obviously if that happens you will be the first to get the disgusting details, dear reader! At the moment, surgery may be in November-time, but obviously that depends on appointments getting booked and ENT giving me the all clear and things.

The good news is they're doing fancy endoscopic surgery on me this time which does have higher success rates. The surgery is still a possibility of cure, but success rates are quite a bit lower for a second surgery. And the fact that the tumour has clearly grown in quite a short time (it was stable at my previous scan in March) is not a good sign. Consequently they're already planning how to treat me if/when it does turn out that they don't manage to get the whole bloody thing out.

*Pituitary tumours are only considered cancerous if they metastasize, which is extremely rare. The majority of pituitary tumours are very slow growing, however mine has grown back quickly so they are treating it as "aggressive". These tumours are also treated as aggressive if they invade the areas surrounding the pituitary fossa.

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