Nuclear medicine

We also call diagnostic nuclear medicine 'molecular imaging'. It is a form of medical imaging. It uses tiny amounts of radioactive chemicals called radiotracers

We generally inject radiotracers into the bloodstream. This lets us see where the radiotracers localise in your body. This gives us information about the function of different cells, tissues and organs. These scans help doctors diagnose a variety of conditions - including cancer. We have two innovative SPECT/CT cameras with quantitative capability. We separate this kind of imaging into two categories: Nuclear medicine, and Positron emission tomography (PET). We usually use both types with a computed tomography (CT) scan. This helps us localise the site of radiotracer accumulation. This then helps doctors select and plan the best treatment for you. The nuclear medicine department also specialises in radionuclide therapy. This treats a variety of cancers. 

Process for Nuclear medicine patients 

Nuclear medicine referral 

Your general practitioner or specialist will organise relevant referrals for nuclear medicine. 

Booking a scan 

You will speak with a technologist when booking the scan. 

Let the technologist know if you have any other procedures booked. This may alter your booking time and pre-scan preparation. 

They will also provide you with any relevant preparation instructions. 

On the day 

  1. Go to the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) at 305 Grattan Street, Melbourne
  2. Go to the front enquiry desk if you would like directions
  3. Otherwise, catch the main lifts to level 5 
  4. Go to the Cancer Imaging section at reception 5C

Getting the scan 

We will administer the radiotracers. 

Sometimes we will be able to perform imaging at once after we administer the radiotracer. This allows us to look at the rapid passage of the tracer through the body.  

In other cases, the tracer accumulates in tissues at a slow rate. If this is the case, you might be able to leave the building and return later for scanning. This wait could be for several hours or several days in some cases. 

When ready, we will then scan you. This can take between 15 and 90 minutes. The exact time depends on the clinical question we're addressing. 

Impacts of scans and radiation 

Millions of scans happen around the world each year with very low risk to the patient. All scans involve administering radioactive compounds. The radiation you receive is quite low though.  Most of it being about the same as the amount of radiation you receive from the environment over a year. 

Types of nuclear medicine tests 

We perform these tests the most: 

Name of test 

Radioactive tracer 

Purpose of test 

Cardiac gated blood pool scan 

Tc-99m labelled red blood cells 

Watch heart function in patients having chemotherapy. 

Sentinel node scintigraphy 

Tc-99m antimony colloid 

Find the pathway of lymphatic spread, most performed in breast cancer and melanoma. 

Bone scan 

Tc-99m MDP 

Imaging bone metabolism; enables identification of spread of tumour to bone. 

MIBI scan 

Tc-99m sestamibi 

Most used for imaging multiple myeloma; also used to find parathyroid adenomas. 

Thyroid scan 

Iodine-123, Tc-99m pertechnetate 

Imaging thyroid cancer and thyroid function. 

Renal scan 

Tc-99m MAG3 or DTPA, Cr-51 EDTA 

Measurement and imaging of kidney function. 

Lung scan 

Tc-99m Technegas/MAA 

Used to detect clots in the lung (pulmonary emboli) and to measure lung function. 

More information on nuclear medicine test types 

Nuclear medicine referral information 

Your general practitioner or specialist will organise relevant referrals for nuclear medicine. 


Cancer Imaging 

Level 5, reception 5C Imaging 
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre 
305 Grattan Street 
Melbourne, VIC 3000 

Nuclear medicine contact 

Cancer Imaging

  • Phone: (03) 8559 5510 
  • Fax: (03) 8559 5519 

Nuclear medicine resources 


Related links

Cancer Council