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Nuclear medicine scan for thyroid cancer

What is a nuclear medicine scan?

Nuclear medicine is a branch of radiology that involves administering small amounts of radioactive material (called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers) to a patient by injection, inhalation or pill. The radiopharmaceutical eventually accumulates in a particular organ or area of the body, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays.

The energy is detected by a special camera, which produces a series of images on a computer screen or film. This provides us with details about the structure and function of an organ, tissue or bone in the body. This test also allows us to identify abnormalities early in the progression of a disease.

Nuclear medicine scan for thyroid cancer

The most common test used for patients with thyroid cancer is a radioiodine scan, which involves swallowing or injecting a small amount of radioactive iodine, or I-131. This test is often used in patients with differentiated forms of the disease (papillary, follicular, Hürthle cell). It may be used to identify abnormal areas of the thyroid gland, or to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
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