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The Different Types of Nuclear Medicine Scans for Cancer

The Different Types of Nuclear Medicine Scans for Cancer

Nuclear medicine scans 一 also called nuclear imaging or nuclear scans 一 refer to types of medical scans that detect tumors and show where (or if) cancerous tumors have spread throughout the body. 

Here at Excel Diagnostics & Nuclear Oncology Center, Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand and our expert team offer several different types of nuclear medicine scans. Continue reading to learn more about the different options available in our Houston, Texas office.

Different types of nuclear medicine scans for cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, the following tests fall under the umbrella of nuclear medicine scans:

Dr. Delpassand offers another type of nuclear medicine scan called a SPECT/CT scan. This imaging scan combines the images from two different types of scans. The goal of combining these two scans is to provide even more accurate and detailed information about a specific area of your body. 

A SPECT/CT scan combines the images of a single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan and a computed tomography (CT) scan.

What does a SPECT/CT scan reveal?

First, let’s look at the SPECT scan. When you receive a SPECT scan, you first receive a nuclear medicine radiopharmaceutical injection. Also called a tracer, the medicine radiopharmaceutical sticks only to cancerous cells once it’s inside your body. Special gamma cameras detect the tracer in your body, highlighting where the cancerous tumors are inside of your body. The camera rotates 360 degrees and provides an accurate 3D image of the scanned body area.

Next, let’s look at what a CT scan is and what types of images it produces. During a CT scan, several X-ray images are taken from different angles. Computer processing takes this series of X-ray images and creates cross-sectional images. The cross-section images show slices of your bones, blood vessels, and other soft tissues inside your body. The cross-sectional images are much more detailed than a regular X-ray. 

Individually, these images are very helpful, but together, they are even more accurate. 

What is it like to get a SPECT/CT scan?

During your SPECT/CT scan, you receive an intravenous (IV) line so that you can receive a radiopharmaceutical tracer directly into your vein. The test takes about 40 minutes, but the first five minutes are reserved for the CT portion of the SPECT/CT scan. Once the CT images are collected, your radiology team at Excel Diagnostics & Nuclear Oncology Center initiates the SPECT scan. The SPECT images are then lined up with your CT images to provide a thorough look at your anatomy.

These results can pinpoint underlying health issues that are contributing to bone or joint pain.  SPECT/CT scans are also useful when evaluating health conditions such as arthritis, organ abnormalities, or coronary artery disease. When part of cancer treatments, SPECT/CT scans are often used to monitor many types of cancerous tumors, including brain and bone tumors.

Preparing for nuclear medicine scans

No matter which nuclear medicine scan you are receiving, it’s important to prepare for the test. How you prepare depends on which test you need, but rest assured that your radiology team guides you every step of the way so you know exactly what to expect before, during, and after your test.

Even if you don’t need to prepare beforehand, nuclear medicine tests require you to take precautionary steps after your test. The radioactive tracer material used (e.g., the radiopharmaceutical injection used during your SPECT scan) naturally decays over time. This means the material will lose its radioactivity over time, and it may leave your body through your sweat, urine, or feces. However, for added precaution, you may need to avoid close contact with family members (especially children and pregnant women) for a specified length of time after your procedure. 

To schedule a consultation at Excel Diagnostics & Nuclear Oncology Center to learn more about the diagnostic benefits of a SPECT/CT scan, call our Houston, Texas, office 713-781-6200, or book an appointment online today.

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