Nuclear Medicine Procedures: Tumor Imaging


To find different types of tumors, specialists at The University of Kansas Hospital use several types of nuclear medicine procedures and radiopharmaceuticals, including:

Gallium Scan

Finds infections, abscesses and tumors such as sarcomas, lymphoma, sarcoidosis.

ProstaScint Scan

For men who are suspected of having a recurrence of previously diagnosed prostate cancer.

Octreotide Scan

Diagnostic procedure used to find tumors such as carcinoid, neuroendocrine tumors and insulinomas.


Finds tumors such as pheochromocytomas and neuroblastomas.

Thallium Scan

Finds brain tumors, chondromas and many other tumors.

Sestamibi Scan

Looks for tumors of the parathyroid, as well as many other tumors.

131Iodine Whole Body Scan

Finds thyroid cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.


The patient will receive a radiopharmaceutical by IV injection or by mouth. Depending on the drug, the patient must wait several hours to several days before having the scan. The patient will lie on the exam table under a gamma camera, which makes images from emitted gamma radiation. Most patients will have whole body scan (from head to toe), followed by a single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan of a specific area. The combined procedures will take one to two hours.

Most tumor imaging will be performed over several days. This depends on the patient's disease, the clearance of the radiopharmaceutical and the specific radiologist protocol followed.


Most tumor imaging radiopharmaceuticals do not require patient preparation.  Usually the patient cannot take anything by mouth prior to the injection. For the tumor imaging agent MIBG, the patient's physician needs to contact the radiologist to determine whether or not any of the patient's medications will interfere with the absorption of the drug.

For the tumor imaging agent 131Iodine, the patient must be off Synthroid, a drug that treats hypothyroidism, four to six weeks. Once injected, the Gallium and ProstaScint procedures require a bowel prep, and MIBG may require the patient to take Thyro-block tablets before and after they are injected.


The exam table's weight limit is 300 to 350 pounds, depending upon the gamma camera used. Patients who have had previous nuclear medicine exams may need to wait a few days before receiving a tumor imaging procedure, depending upon the isotope received in the previous exams.


Tumor imaging injections are scheduled every hour from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, depending upon the availability of the drug. Tumor imaging scans are scheduled every hour from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tumor imaging is performed at the main hospital campus, our Westwood campus and The University of Kansas Cancer Center - South location.

Clinical Considerations

Tumor imaging scans look for specific tumors, depending upon which radiopharmaceutical is used.

Sedation Considerations

Patients may need to be sedated during tumor imaging procedures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a tumor imaging make me radioactive?

You receive a tiny amount of radiopharmaceutical. Usually, it loses its radioactivity within hours, and will pass out of the body within 24 hours.

Do tumor imaging procedures hurt?

Other than the minor discomfort of a needle stick, tumor imaging procedures are painless.

Who should not have tumor imaging procedures?

Generally, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not receive these procedures. They are safe for most other patients.

Physician Spotlight

Mamatha Pasnoor, MD

Clinical Focus
Neuromuscular Disorders

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