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Nuclear medicine is a medical speciality that uses radioactive molecules to study the functioning of organs. It is involved in the diagnosis and treatment of many pathologies.
These radioactive elements called tracers are used to target molecules or receptors in the human body, so the term molecular medicine is also used. They emit radiation that can be detected by two types of cameras used in nuclear medicine. The dose of radioactivity is minimal and does not pose any particular risk.
The PET-CT technique is used in oncology, cardiology, neurology and to search for an infectious focus. In oncology, the technique is used to confirm the presence of cancer. Because the entire body is examined, it is also possible to assess whether tumour cells are present in other organs (metastases). With PET-CT it is also possible to obtain quantitative values that allow the monitoring of tumour cells in order to assess whether the treatment is working well and whether the cancer is progressing favourably.
In a therapeutic approach, nuclear medicine uses a radiopharmaceutical drug to destroy diseased cells. A scan or PET-CT prior to treatment ensures that the radioactivity is binding to the diseased cells. The patient is then given a radiopharmaceutical specific to the cells to be destroyed.
The machine records the gamma rays emitted by the patient and creates functional images. Activity curves can be generated, for example to demonstrate kidney function or to compare the activity of a left limb to the right limb, often used in the search for a stress fracture or bone disease.
For lung exploration, two radioactive tracers are used, one inhaled and one injected. This technique is used to explore lung function before surgery in collaboration with the pulmonologist and to search for a pulmonary embolism.
To confirm Parkinson's disease, a brain scan (Datscan) can be performed at the request of a neurologist.
For endocrinology, thyroid and parathyroid scans are performed. These are the examinations of choice in the case of hormonal disorders, investigation of a thyroid or parathyroid nodule.
In the case of symptoms(tightness, intense chest pain, shortness of breath) that may indicate coronary artery disease, a cardiac scan is indicated. For this examination, an exercise test is carried out with a cardiologist during which the radiotracer is administered. The result shows the activity of the heart muscle and makes it possible to diagnose an ischaemia or infarction.