WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF NUCLEAR MEDICINE?
- Nuclear Medicine Procedures provide unique information that is often unattainable using other imaging procedures – details on both function and anatomic structure of the body.
- Nuclear Medicine offers the potential to identify disease in its earliest stage, often even before symptoms occur or abnormalities detected with other diagnostic tests.
- By detecting whether lesions are likely benign or malignant, PET scans may eliminate the need for surgical biopsy or may identify the best biopsy location.
- PET CT guided biopsies help in more accurate diagnosis of cancer.
HOW DOES NUCLEAR MEDICINE WORK?
Unlike ordinary X-ray examinations, an image is made by passing x-rays through a patient’s body, Nuclear Medicine Procedures use a radioactive material, called a Radiopharmaceutical or Radiotracer that is injected into the bloodstream, or swallowed or inhaled as a gas. The radioactive material accumulates in the organ or area of the body being examined, from where it gives off a small amount of energy in the form of gamma rays. Special cameras detect this energy, and with the help of a computer, create pictures that offer details on both the structure and function of the organs and tissues.
Also, unlike other imaging techniques, nuclear medicine imaging exams focus on depicting physiological processes, such as metabolism or levels of various other chemical activity, instead of showing anatomy and structure.
HOW DOES NUCLEAR MEDICINE DIFFER FROM OTHER TYPES OF RADIOLOGY?
Nuclear Imaging Techniques show the physiological function of the tissue or organ being investigated, whereas, traditional Imaging Systems, such as CT (Computed Tomography) Scan, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Scan etc., show only the anatomy or structure.
HOW ARE THE VARIOUS NUCLEAR MEDICINE PROCEDURES PERFORMED?
The patient is positioned on an examination table, and depending on the type of Nuclear Medicine Exam, the dose of radiotracer is then injected intravenously, swallowed or inhaled as a gas. It can take anywhere from several seconds to several days for the radiotracer to travel through the body and accumulate in the organ or area that is to be studied. As a result, imaging may either be done immediately, a few hours later, or even several days after receiving the radioactive material.
When it’s time for imaging, the camera or scanner will take a series of images by either rotating around the patient’s body or by staying in one position where the patient is asked to change positions in between images. While the camera is taking pictures, that patient is asked to remain still for brief periods. In certain cases, the camera may come very close to the body to obtain best quality images. If a patient is claustrophobic, he/ she should inform the technologist before the exam begins.
The length of time for Nuclear Medicine Procedures vary greatly depending on the type of exam. The actual scanning time can take from 20 minutes to several hours and may be conducted over several days in some special cases.
HOW IS NUCLEAR MEDICINE USED FOR THERAPY?
Nuclear Medicine Therapy works on a revolutionary concept called “Theranostics”. It is a relatively new field that combines specific targeted therapy based on specific targeted diagnostics. Theranostics uses specific molecular pathways to acquire diagnostic images. And then, it uses the same molecular pathway to deliver a therapeutic dose of molecular level radiation to the disease foci.
Nuclear Medicine Therapy takes the mode of treatment away from the contemporary methods of one-medicine-fits-all and trial & error. Theranostics is about offering the right treatment, for the right patient, at the right time, and with the right dose. Iodine-131 to treat an overactive thyroid gland and thyroid cancer, PRRT for neuroendocrine tumors and PSMA therapy for prostate cancer patients are few examples of this approach.
IS NUCLEAR MEDICINE THERAPY SAFE?
While, there is small amount of radiation used and it largely benefits the patient, but not other people. And therefore, the patient will need to take some safety measures so that the radiation does not affect other people.
If you are pregnant or you think you could be pregnant, or you are breastfeeding, it is important that you tell your doctor and the nuclear medicine service team before they give you the therapy dose. Many Nuclear Medicine Procedures require all women of child-bearing age to have a pregnancy test within 24 hours before therapy. The patient needs to make sure that she does not become pregnant for at least six months after some types of therapy.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE, OUR NUCLEAR MEDICINE TEAM WILL EXPLAIN IN DETAIL THE VARIOUS SAFETY MEASURES THAT A PATIENT NEEDS TO FOLLOW FOR THE TYPE OF THERAPY AND FOR HOW LONG.
PLEASE SPEAK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT THE SAFETY MEASURES.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE-EFFECTS OF NUCLEAR MEDICINE THERAPIES?
Side-effects can occur after nuclear medicine therapy, but usually these are minor. Our Nuclear Medicine Specialist will discuss in detail the side-effects and other complications that could occur. The specialist will also explain the things you can do to reduce or avoid side-effects.