Nuclear medicine uses radioactive material inside the body to see how organs or tissues are working (for diagnosis) or to target and destroy diseased organs or tissues (for treatment).
As mentioned above, nuclear medicine can show how organs or tissues work. For most diagnostic procedures, a tracer containing radioactive material is injected or swallowed. The radiologist then uses a radiation detector to see how much of the tracer is absorbed or how it reacts in the organ or tissue. This will give the doctor information about how well it is working.
Common uses of nuclear medicine for diagnosis include: scans of the heart, lungs, kidneys, gallbladder, and thyroid. In a version of nuclear medicine called positron emission tomography (PET), the tracer is used for showing the natural activity of cells, providing more detailed information about how organs are working and whether cells are damaged.