By Emma Meyers
As a fourth year nursing student working in Chicago area hospitals, I deal with nuclear medicine quite often. The term “nuclear medicine” can sound disconcerting, but when you are familiar with it, I assure you, it’s not. Just think of it as a bunch of necessary medical tools with a little radiation thrown in. I know what you are thinking. Radiation? What? Relax. It’s fine. You already know it, and either you, or someone you know, has been exposed to this specific area of medicine via certain procedures.
Now, I realize that wordy medical jargon like “computerized axial tomography” and “positron emission tomography” may sound unfamiliar, but these are actually two common forms of nuclear medicine imaging. Most of us know them in their more popular acronym forms, CT and PET scans. Less scary sounding, right?
We all know X-rays, but what about bone scans for density, or gallium scans to find an internal mass? These tests are all safe, and regularly used in medical practice around the world. Yes, they emit radiation, but in a safe way.  All are part of the nuclear medicine diagnostic family of tools.
So what is nuclear medicine exactly? To put it simply, it is medical imaging using tiny amounts of radioactive materials to find, diagnose and help to determine the severity of a disease. It can also be used to help treat diseases. Nuclear medicine can help to diagnose abnormalities of the heart, including heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, neurological problems, and so much more! It can also be used to detect and treat cancer.
Our concept of modern-day medicine would not exist without nuclear medicine. Images produced by this technology can reveal problems often not seen by using other imaging procedures. These medical tools offer the potential to help to diagnose disease in their earliest stages.
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