What is nuclear medicine, and how is a nuclear medicine test performed?
A radioactive compound (i.e., a radiotracer) that targets a molecular process, cellular process, or disease of interest is administered to a patient. Photons are emitted from the radiotracer in the patient, and an imaging detector is used to detect the distribution of the radiotracer. Images are then created by a computer system. The main nuclear medicine imaging techniques include planar scintigraphy, single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), and positron emission tomography (PET). Nuclear medicine techniques are used not only for diagnostic purposes, but also less commonly to treat cancer, in which case the radiotracers used accumulate in tumor sites and also emit charged particles that promote cancer cell death.