Nuclear Medicine – A Brief Introduction

Jacqueline Swafford-Thistle has more than 25 years’ experience as a highly skilled nuclear medicine technologist. Jacqueline Swafford-Thistle previously taught at the Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Massachusetts, as a clinical instructor of nuclear medicine.

Highly reliant on the process of radioactive decay, nuclear medicine uses tiny amounts of radioactive substances to diagnose and treat diseases. Nuclear medicine creates radiopharmaceuticals by combining radioactive isotopes with other elements or existing pharmaceuticals. These radiopharmaceuticals are administered to a patient either intravenously or orally. Once inside the body, the radioactive elements begin to break down and emit radiation, which is then absorbed by surrounding tissues and organs. The radiation absorbed during a nuclear medicine procedure is measured with specialized imaging equipment that displays the activity and functioning of tissues, organs, and tumors in the targeted area.

Physicians in a variety of medical specialties use nuclear medical techniques to diagnose and treat a range of conditions, including cardiovascular problems, tumors, aneurysms, and blood cell disorders. In some cases, these techniques are able to identify problems much earlier than other diagnostic tests.

Uses of Radioactive Chemicals in Bone Cancer Treatment

Jacqueline Swafford-Thistle,Massachusetts, recently moved to a VNA liaison position with Lahey Medical Center in Burlington. In that job, Jacqueline Swafford-Thistle communicates with health professionals and patients. Previously, Jackie Swafford-Thistle served as a nuclear medicine technologist.

In those jobs, Jacqueline Thistle became well acquainted with radiopharmaceuticals, chemicals used in treating bone cancer. Whether injected, taken orally, or inserted into a body cavity, these medications go to cancerous parts of the body and emit alpha or beta radiation.

These radioisotopes, strontium 89, samarium 153, and radium 223, destroy cancer cells and relieve the pain caused by tumors. (They are also employed in small amounts for diagnostic imaging.) For tumors in multiple bones, this method offers advantages over beamed radiation therapy. These techniques sometimes work in combination to alleviate very painful tumors.

Therapy with radiopharmaceuticals sometimes creates side effects. They can decrease blood cell counts, especially for white cells, which can lead to an increased chance of infection. Also vulnerable are platelets, the lack of which can lead to bleeding and bruises.

A Brief Explanation of Nuclear Diagnostics

As an experienced medical technologist, Jacqueline Swafford-Thistle has worked with a number of nuclear diagnostic systems. Jackie Swafford-Thistle stands out as a former supervisor and staff nuclear medicine technologist at Saints Medical Center of Massachusetts, where she oversaw and conducted numerous diagnostic procedures.

In the field of medical diagnostics, nuclear medicine presents advanced options for detecting abnormalities. There are a number of such tests, from cardiovascular imaging to topography, although the basic process is similar throughout the industry. When performing a nuclear imaging test, radioactive material is introduced into the patient’s body. Depending on the test, it may be ingested, inhaled, or injected. Then, doctors and technologists use scanning equipment that detects radioactivity in the body.

One popular nuclear diagnostic procedure is the nuclear stress test, a cardiovascular imaging strategy. When undergoing this procedure, medical professionals inject a patient with radioactive material and then ask the patient to perform an aerobic activity. After the exercise, then later without the exercise, technologists use a scanner that detects the flow of the radioactive material and thus analyzes blood flow. Other types of nuclear imaging involve the introduction of a compound that targets areas of significant metabolic activity. This type of testing is often selected to identify the presence or location of tumors, which metabolize faster than normal body tissue.