Published Jul 5, 2021
The cancer journey can be long – and it doesn’t necessarily end after completing treatment. FOX anchor Lindy Thackston knows this all too well but is happy with her progress just over a year after her colorectal cancer diagnosis. She recently shared the news of her clear PET scan meaning that the cancer has not returned.
Thackston, 40, was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in May 2020. She began her cancer treatment with four surgeries and 15 rounds of chemo pills and radiation. She then had 10 rounds of “clean-up chemo,” as she calls it, which quickly became “pure torture.” She was initially going to have 12 rounds, but she decided – with support from her doctor – that 10 rounds was sufficient given the increasing severity of her side effects like fatigue, nausea, neuropathy (weakness, numbness or pain from nerve damage) and gastrointestinal issues. During her time in the hospital, Thackston lost 40 pounds, and, on top of it all, has dealt with hair loss.
Thankfully, she’s doing well now and back at work. That does not mean, however, that she can avoid thinking about her cancer all together. But hopefully she’ll only be met with good developments from here on out – like the news from her most recent check-in. In a recent Instagram post, she found a cheeky way to tell followers she was still “cancer-free” following her PET scans.
“Holding my pet to say my PET scan came back clear last week so I remain cancer-free!” Thackston wrote. “I have a colonoscopy July 30, then will do another scan in a few months. #cancersurvivor #colorectalcancer #stage3”
With this exciting news, we can assume Thackston is feeling a great sense of relief. With “scanxiety” – or the feeling of fear that her cancer will be detected on scans – being a very real thing, hopefully her most recent scans can help her continue to move forward.
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. Like any cancer, colorectal cancer presents its own unique challenges for patients on the road to recovery. But Dr. Heather Yeo, a surgical oncologist and colorectal surgeon at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, wants to remind people how far the treatment of this disease has come.
“One of the most exciting things about my job is that we’ve made a lot of progress on treatment options,” Dr. Yeo says in a previous interview with SurvivorNet. “However, patients are still — while they’re living longer, they are still living with colon cancer, and so I think it’s really important that we talk about how some of the things in your life affect you.”
Dr. Yeo also wants people to know how important colorectal screenings can be. In fact, she says most colorectal cancers can be prevented early with screening.
“In the United States, on a national level, colorectal cancer has been decreasing for the last 20 years,” Dr. Yeo explains. “And much of that is thought to be directly due to screening for colon cancer.”
Even still, colorectal cancer cases are rising among younger people like Lindy Thackston. Because of this increase, the United States Preventive Services Task Force has recently updated their screening recommendations to begin at age 45 as opposed to 50.
A PET, or positron emission tomography, scan is a type of test that is often used in the world of cancer care. It can also be performed in conjunction with a CT, or computed tomography, scan – making it a PET/CT scan. We don’t know for sure if Lindy Thackston’s most recent test was just a PET scan or a PET/CT scan, but it’s possible it was both because sometimes people refer to the combination scan as a PET scan.
The PET scan, specifically, uses a radioactive form of sugar that cancer cells absorb more than healthy cells to help distinguish healthy cells from cancerous ones. The CT scan uses x-rays to take pictures inside the body from many different angles and can help reveal a tumor’s shape, size and location.
The PET/CT scan combines these two imaging tests into one. These tests can let your doctors know whether your treatment is working, if a new treatment method is needed or if your cancer has returned after therapy is completed.
The knowledge gained from these scans is essential, but that doesn’t mean these tests are perfect. One downside is that it can produce a false-positive result, meaning that the test shows you have cancer when you don’t. The risk of having a false positive result is that you could get additional treatments that you don’t actually need that lead to potentially harmful side effects. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Jakub Svoboda, a medical oncologist at Penn Medicine, explained both the benefits of and the problems with the PET/CT scans.
“The issue of false positives definitely is one of the shortcomings of this technology,” Dr. Svoboda said. “The PET/CT is great, but it doesn’t have the perfect ability to distinguish between malignancy [cancer] or inflammation.”
He also added that these shortcomings of the test can provoke a lot of anxiety. Questionable areas can make it “very scary for patients to read” a radiology report. That being said, a doctor’s expertise can help fill in the gaps. They can look for other clues – for example, whether you’ve recently gotten over a cold – to determine whether the activity on your scan is cancer, or something benign, such as inflammation from an infection. Regardless, if you’re ever concerned about your test results, it’s important to talk with your doctor. And don’t be afraid to seek out a second opinion from an oncologist at another cancer center before making any changes to your treatment plan.