If your doctor has just requested you get a bone scan to check if cancer has spread to your bones, you may be asking yourself whether you should choose to have a Sodium Fluoride Bone Scan or a traditional Nuclear Bone Scan. There is a difference and since it’s your body, your health, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about them first.
Nuclear Bone Scan:
A bone scan is a nuclear imaging test that aids in diagnosing several different types of bone disease. If your doctor has suggested you have a bone scan than he is likely looking to see if a primary cancer diagnosis has spread to your bones. Bone scans also help with the detection of infection, injury or loss. Bone scans are also used in detecting some cancers or to detect abnormalities related to leukemia and lymphoma.
The risks with a traditional nuclear bone scan are low, with little to no allergic reaction, and minimal radiation exposure. The actual scanner is like a big arm that waves over your body. There is an injection, painless really, and images may be taken immediately depending on what your doctor orders. The tracers need time to circulate and be absorbed by your bones — generally two to four hours before the scan can be done. You may not have to wait in the radiology department which is nice and the technician will let you know when to return for the scan. The scan itself takes about 30 minutes, and is painless. You’ll need to drink extra water after the scan to remove any radioactive material that was not absorbed by your system.
PET/CT (or NaF-18) Bone Scan:
(PET) or Positron Emission Tomography can be used with a sodium fluoride radiotracer in place of a traditional bone scan. This test is done in the radiology department, or at an outpatient imaging center. The PET/CT equipment is a tube like device, doughnut shaped and open at the head and feet. It’s not quite as confined as an MRI and doesn’t have all those thumps and bumps that an MRI has.
A sodium fluoride, or NaF-18 PET scan is more sensitive than a traditional nuclear bone scan, in some cases giving a better picture of your body, finding more disease and changing the course of treatment in some cases. However, they are also more difficult to get approved through insurance companies as first round scan for diagnosis because they are more costly. This test requires the injection of a contrast as well, with the waiting time only one hour and the scanning time about 45 minutes. It is painless, other than the little stick to inject the radiotracer.
To sum up the differences, traditional nuclear bone scans can sometimes leave more questions than answers depending on what your doctor is looking for, or in the worst case scenario, may not show disease when it is there. Although a bone scan shows abnormalities in bone metabolism, the sodium fluoride bone scans will not require as much time, and can be much more sensitive to areas of concern in your bones.
We offer the sodium fluoride PET/CT scans at Glendale MRI and also can quote a more affordable cash price along with interest-free financing. You may contact us with any questions regarding your upcoming scans, we’re here to help.