Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose and determine the severity of or treat a variety of diseases, including many types of cancers, heart disease, gastrointestinal, endocrine, neurological disorders and other abnormalities within the body. Because nuclear medicine procedures are able to pinpoint molecular activity within the body, they offer the potential to identify disease in its earliest stages as well as a patient’s immediate response to therapeutic interventions.
Unlike conventional imaging studies that produce primarily structural pictures, nuclear medicine and molecular imaging visualize how the body is functioning and what’s happening at the cellular and molecular level. The evolution in diagnostic imaging—from producing anatomical pictures to imaging and measuring the body’s physiological processes—is critically important to all facets of medicine today, from diagnosing disease at its earliest stage and developing more effective therapies, to personalizing medical treatment.
With the help of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, scientists and healthcare providers are:
- Gaining a better understanding of the pathways of disease
- Quickly assessing new drugs
- Improving the selection of therapy
- Monitoring patient response to treatment
- Finding new ways to identify individuals at risk for disease