A nurse checks on a patient in the cancer ward

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Overview

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What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear medicine is the safe use of radioactive materials in the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases. Certain compounds (pharmaceuticals) which by their nature, concentrate in different organs of their human body, are chemically labelled with specific radioactive materials (radioisotopes). These radiopharmaceuticals, once administered, concentrate within the organ or organ system and the distribution is determined by specialised equipment.

The therapeutic basis of nuclear medicine relies on the fact that certain elements are necessary for the body's metabolism or normal function. The body cannot distinguish between a radioactive or non-radioactive element so will deal with both in the same manner. Thus, when indicated to induce a therapeutic response, the radioactive form is administered.