Nuclear medicine scans, also known as nuclear imaging, radionuclide imaging, and nuclear scans, are used to help doctors diagnose cancer and determine the stage of the disease. PET scans use a mildly radioactive drug to identify areas of the body where cells are more active than normal, which can indicate the presence of cancer. Radioactive scans can also be used to diagnose certain types of neuroendocrine tumors. A bone scan is a type of nuclear medicine test that uses a very small amount of a radioactive substance, called a tracer.
The tracer is injected into a vein and absorbed in different amounts by cells and tissues. Areas that absorb more of the marker may indicate the presence of cancer. Nuclear medicine scans are an important tool for diagnosing cancer and determining how far it has spread. They can also be used to evaluate whether treatment is working.