What is Nuclear Medicine and When is It Used?

Get the facts on nuclear medicine and how it affects you.

Wondering what nuclear medicine is? It's more common than you might think. Discover how and when it's used in the medical world.

What is nuclear medicine?
Nuclear medicine is a fancy way of describing radioactive materials used in medical diagnoses and treatment. While it might bring to mind images of huge power plants or weapons, nuclear medicine is something that happens on a very small scale, with very small amounts of radioactive materials. Though tiny amounts are used, they’re still regulated by The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

How is nuclear medicine used?
According to the NRC, nuclear medicine helps physicians locate and identify tumors, size anomalies, or other physiological or functional organ problems. It can also be used therapeutically, usually in cancer care.

What does nuclear medicine diagnose?
When used diagnostically, nuclear medicine can give doctors a detailed look at the body. According to Medline Plus, nuclear scans can help doctors diagnose various types of cancers, injuries and infections. These special scans can also show doctors how organs in the body are functioning. Before a scan, a very small amount of radioactive material is introduced to the body via an injection. In some cases it can also be swallowed in pill form or inhaled as a gas. Doctors weigh the risks with the need for diagnosis and special care is taken when performing these types of scans.

Does nuclear medicine treat cancer?
Brachytherapy is a type of nuclear medicine used to treat cancer. It involves a very small amount of radioactive material placed inside the body. For example, a small pellet may be placed in the body beside a tumor to help shrink it. Doctors and nurses who specialize in radiation therapy complete these types of cancer treatments.

Want to learn more about diagnosis and treatment of cancer? Visit us online or call our free Consult-A-Nurse® service at 1-888-741-5120 for health information and physician referrals.

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