What You Need To Know About Nuclear Medicine
December 6, 2017

Radiologists use nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat a number of diseases including cancer, heart disease, neurological, endocrine, and gastrointestinal disorders. Unlike diagnostic x-rays which pass external radiation through the body to produce an image of the anatomy, nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of internal radiation and special cameras to show physiological functions of the body. Here’s what you need to know about nuclear medicine in Bend, Oregon.

What Is Nuclear Medicine?

Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty that allows us to view the function of physiological processes inside the body. To do this, a small amount of radioactive matter (known as a radiotracer) is administered as a food or beverage, in an IV, or inhaled as a gas. These tracers are individually developed to accumulate in areas of disease, forming a “hot spot” that is viewed and examined using specific imaging equipment.

There are several nuclear medicine procedures that can be performed at CORA including bone scans, gastrointestinal scans, hepatobiliary scans (to view the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts), lymphatic scans, and tumor imaging/staging scans (SPECT/CT and PET/CT).

Nuclear Medicine for Thyroid and Prostate Treatment

In addition to using nuclear medicine as a diagnostic tool, in some instances it can also be used as a medical treatment. For individuals with an overactive thyroid (otherwise known as hyperthyroidism) or thyroid cancer, a small dose of radioactive iodine I-131 can be taken orally as a thyroid treatment. Once it has been absorbed into the bloodstream, it becomes concentrated in the thyroid gland and/or thyroid cancer cells where it begins to destroy the gland’s cells.

Similarly, in the case of prostate cancer that is resistant to other treatments and has spread to the bones, Xofigo treatments can be used. Xofigo is an alpha-particle emitting radioisotope (radium-223 dichloride) that targets bone cancer and causes cancer cell death. It is administered into the body intravenously and eliminated from the body through the gastrointestinal system.

How to Prepare for Treatment

Whether you are using nuclear medicine in Bend for diagnostic or treatment purposes, it is important to talk with your medical provider about how best to prepare before your appointment. You may need to follow special diet instructions or make changes to your medications. Please let your provider know of any allergies, medications, and supplements you take.

Once the radiotracers have been administered, it may take minutes, hours, or days for the accumulation to take place. As a result, imaging may take place during your appointment, or on a separate appointment at a later date.