A radiologist is a qualified doctor who specializes in radiology. Nuclear medicine is used to diagnose a wide range of conditions.
The patient will inhale, swallow, or be injected with a radiopharmaceutical. This is a radioactive material. After taking the substance, the patient will normally lie down on a table, while a camera takes pictures.
The camera will focus on the area where the radioactive material is concentrated, and this will show the doctor what kind of a problem there is, and where it is.
Types of imaging techniques include positon emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). PET and SPECT scans can provide detailed information about how a body organ is functioning. This type of imaging is particularly helpful for diagnosing thyroid disease, gall bladder disease, heart conditions, and cancer. It can also help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia and brain conditions. In the past, diagnosing internal problems often needed surgery, but nuclear medicine makes this unnecessary. After diagnosis, and when treatment starts, PET and SPECT can show how well the treatment is working. PET and SPECT are also offering new insights into psychiatric conditions, neurological disorders, and addiction. Other types of imaging involved in nuclear medicine include targeted molecular ultrasound, which is useful in detecting different kinds of cancer and highlighting blood flow; and magnetic resonance sonography, which has a role in diagnosing cancer and metabolic disorders.
Nuclear medicine in treatment:
Radioactive agents may be swallowed in pill form, inhaled, or injected as part of a person’s treatment.
Radioactive techniques are also used in treatment. The same agents that are used in nuclear imaging can be used to deliver treatment. The radiopharmaceutical can be swallowed, injected, or inhaled.
One example is radioactive iodine (I-131). It has been used for over 50 years to treat thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid. Now, it is also used to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma and bone pain from some kinds of cancer.
Iodine-131 (I-131) targeted radionuclide therapy (TRT) introduces radioactive iodine into the body. As the thyroid cells or cancer cells absorb this substance, it kills them. I-131 can be given as capsules or in liquid form.
In the future, it may be possible to embed chemotherapy into medication imaging agents that will attach only to cancer cells. In this way, the chemotherapy would kill only the target cells and not the nearby healthy tissue. This would reduce some of the adverse effects of chemotherapy.
Radioimmunotherapy (RIT) combines nuclear medicine (radiation therapy) with immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a treatment that mimics cellular activity in the body. Combining the two types of treatment means the nuclear medicine can be targeted more directly to the cells that need it.
Various radionuclides are used. The most common one is I-131, or radioactive iodine therapy (RAI). Other options include 90Y-ibritumomab tiuxetan, or Zevalin, which is used to treat different types of lymphoma. 131-I-tositumomab, or Bexxar, is used to treat lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
Experts in nanotechnology, advanced polymer chemistry, molecular biology, and biomedical engineering are investigating ways to deliver the drugs to the correct site without affecting surrounding tissues.
Theranostics is an approach that integrates nuclear medicine techniques for diagnosis and imaging with those for treatment. By combining molecular targeting vectors, such as peptides, with radionuclides, it can direct the radioactive substance to the target area to diagnose and deliver treatment at the same time.