A bone scan is a nuclear imaging test that helps diagnose and track several types of bone disease.
A bone scan is an important tool for detecting cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bone from a tumor that started in a different organ, such as the breast or prostate. Similarly, a bone scan can detect some abnormalities related to leukemia and lymphoma.
The test is usually done in a hospital on an out patient basis. It is usually performed by a nuclear medicine doctor with the aid of a technician.
The amount of radioactive material used in a bone scan is very small. Most of it leaves your body in a few hours - or at most, a few days.
To prepare for a bone scan, radioactive material is injected through a needle into your vein. After a few hours, you will be ready for the scan. Depending on the part of your body to be scanned, you may also be asked to fast for 2 - 12 hours before the test, or take laxatives or an enema. You may also be asked to drink several glasses of liquid.
The procedure usually takes 30 - 60 minutes. If the table you lie on is hard, ask for a pillow and/or blanket. (The scanner moves back and forth over you).
Bone scans are usually not ordered for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or for babies.