Bone scintigraphy – is a procedure that helps diagnose problems with bones. It is a valuable tool when searching for cancer arising from the bone, or cancer, that has spread to the bone. It can also help to evaluate how well the treatment is working for cancer that has spread to the bone.
Bone scintigraphy is a radionuclide study meaning that the procedure uses a very small amount of a radioactive substance, called a tracer, which is injected into a vein. Although the tracer is radioactive, its amount is so little that the radiation load of bone scintigraphy is smaller than that of the most computed tomography studies. The tracer is absorbed differently in healthy and damaged bones which creates contrast on the image and helps to identify the affected bone thanks to an increased accumulation of the tracer. Increased accumulation may indicate the cancer is in the bone. This procedure is very sensitive for bone disorders, but not all these changes are necessarily related to cancer or metastases. Sometimes, to further explore the reasons of bone damage other diagnostic tools may be used.
In patients with breast cancer bone scintigraphy is primarily used to find bone metastases and to assess the efficacy of their treatment.