Nuclear medicine and molecular imaging subspecialists identify and treat diseases in their earliest stages through the use of small amounts of radioactive material, which is either injected, swallowed, or inhaled into the body. This allows specialized equipment to detect the radiation, producing a digitized image of the body’s tissue and organ function, rather than just anatomic structure. These images are often combined with patient anatomy via MRI or CT scans, allowing assessment of detailed images of form and function.
Nuclear medicine and molecular imaging allows radiologists to view the body at a cellular level and can help identify many diseases not detectable by other means. These imaging techniques are commonly used to evaluate the gallbladder, liver, thyroid, lungs, and heart without surgery. They also facilitate the early diagnosis of numerous diseases including cancer, often before symptoms appear, and can even assess the effectiveness of ongoing cancer therapy. Nuclear medicine therapy techniques allow for radioactivity to be targeted directly to diseased cells, sparing healthy tissue, unlike conventional radiation therapy. Nuclear medicine and molecular imaging physicians work hand in hand on a daily basis with surgeons, oncologists, family practitioners, and other healthcare professionals.