When we hear the word nuclear, most of our minds travel to anxious thoughts of bombs and war, but the word holds a different meaning in the world of medicine. You may have already heard the term “nuclear medicine”, but what is nuclear medicine? It’s been popping up more in medical-related conversations, but what does it have to do with you? Read more to find out!
Years ago, some innovative scientists and medical professionals realized that nuclear energy is not just a good source of electricity, but it can also play an important role in the medical field. Nuclear medicine studies were first performed in the 1950s using devices called gamma cameras, which measure the signals created when small amounts of radioactive chemicals are introduced into the body.
Nuclear medicine today refers to a brand of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and treat some diseases, including some cancers, heart disease, GI diseases and neurological disorders, just to name a few.
What Is Nuclear Medicine Used For?
Today, physicians and medical professionals use nuclear medicine in a variety of ways. Nuclear medicine can be used in both diagnosis and treatment or therapy for certain diseases. Nuclear medicine imaging procedures are usually non-invasive techniques that help doctors pinpoint and evaluate often serious medical conditions.
Depending on the type of exam, the radioactive material—called a radiotracer—is injected, swallowed or inhaled into the body. Then radioactive emissions are detected by a special imaging device. Nuclear medicine can also be used as a type of treatment or therapy, such as radioactive iodine therapy, which uses small amounts of radioactive material to treat cancer.
Why Is Nuclear Medicine Used
Nuclear Medicine is used to be able to be able to image specific organs or parts of the body in great detail. Here are some of the main reasons”
To Diagnose Diseases Accurately: Due to its complex technologies, nuclear medicine can diagnose harmful or dangerous diseases in humans and it can do so with more accuracy than other types of imaging. It can often eliminate the need for a more dangerous medical procedure or exploratory surgery.
Early Detection: Because of the accuracy and ability to make complex medical procedures a bit simpler, nuclear medicine has forged the way for improved early detection of diseases. With nuclear medicine, doctors have more opportunities and choices when it comes to detecting and treating serious medical issues earlier.
Treat Issues: Some doctors are already implementing nuclear medicine to treat some types of cancers and conditions associated with those diseases. Radiation and chemotherapy are modes of nuclear medicine that often put patients into remission and on the road to recovery.
The question most patients likely want to know when they hear the words “nuclear medicine” from their doctor is: is nuclear medicine dangerous? And the answer is yes. Nuclear Medicine tests emit a very low dose of radiation that is comparable to the amount a person would receive from the environment naturally or from a plane trip. It’s important to remember that these exams are only recommended when the benefit far outweighs the risk, so in most cases it is safe to undergo a nuclear medicine exam
If you or someone you know are unsure about whether to undergo a nuclear medicine exam, or if you would like to have more information on how nuclear medicine works, simply contact us! To schedule an appointment for a nuclear medicine exam, find a BICRAD location near you and schedule an appointment.