Nuclear medicine tests can help doctors find tumors and see how far the cancer has spread in the body (the stage of the cancer). They can also be used to find out if treatment is working. These tests are painless and are usually done as an outpatient procedure (no hospital stay). The specific type of scan to be performed depends on the organ the physician wants to study. Some of the most commonly used nuclear medicine studies for cancer (described in detail below) are:

  • Bone scan

  • Positron emission tomography 

  • Thyroid scan

  • MUGA scan (nuclear ventriculography)

  • Gallium scan

  • Radioguided surgical probe

  • Radio-guided tumor surgery detector probe

  • Gamma probe for breast cancer


What Do These Studies Show?
Nuclear medicine studies create images based on body chemistry (such as metabolism) rather than anatomy and structure (as with other imaging studies). These studies use liquid substances called radionuclides (also called markers or radiopharmaceuticals) that release low levels of radiation.

Body tissues affected by certain diseases, such as cancer, may absorb more or less of the tracer than normal tissues. Special cameras capture the pattern of radioactivity to create images showing the tracer's path and where it accumulates.

If cancer is present, the tumor may appear on the image as a "hot spot"; an area of increased cellular activity and tracer uptake. Conversely, depending on the type of study performed, the tumor may be a "cold spot," an area of lower uptake (and lower cellular activity).

Nuclear studies may not find very small tumors and may not always indicate whether a tumor is actually a cancer. These studies can show some problems in internal organs and tissues better than other imaging studies, although they do not provide very detailed images by themselves. For this reason, they are often used in conjunction with other imaging studies to provide a more complete picture of what is going on. For example, bone scans that show hot spots in the skeleton are often followed by X-rays of the affected bones, which better show the details of the bone structure.

The best probes for radioguided tumor surgery can be found in our online device shop.


How do these studies work?

In most cases a tracer (or radionuclide) that emits small doses of radiation is administered. Some are swallowed, while others are injected into a vein or inhaled as a gas.

Over time, the tracer concentrates in the part of the body being studied. This can take anywhere from a few seconds to several days. The concentrated tracer emits gamma rays that are picked up by a special camera (known as a gamma camera, rectilinear scanner or scintigraphy). The signals are processed by a computer, which transforms them into two- and three-dimensional (3-D) images, sometimes with the addition of color for clarity. A radiologist or nuclear medicine physician interprets the images and sends a report to your doctor.

Contact us

Intramedical Imaging is a company created in 1998. We specialize in the design, development and sale of medical equipment for the detection of cancer during surgery. Our molecular imaging equipment is the most sensitive and modern equipment that can be used during an operation to identify abnormal tissues. We are located in Hawthorne, California. We look forward to hearing from you, we will be glad to assist you.