Nuclear medicine uses radioactive tracers or drugs to diagnose or treat many different diseases. Using radioactive tracers in this way allows us to target exactly where the disease is and to work out what effect it is having on your body.
Many of the radioactive tracers we use in our department are made to order every morning in our dedicated radiopharmacy at Hull Royal Infirmary. Occasionally, technical problems or delays with traffic may delay the arrival of the tracers – if this happens please bear with us and we will start your procedure as soon as we can.
Nuclear medicine is a multi-disciplinary department and depending what you are attending for you may be seen by a technologist, physicist or doctor. If you are unsure who the member of staff is that you are seeing, please ask
The nuclear medicine department provides many different diagnostic tests including those to find cancers, heart disease, kidney function, Parkinson’s Disease and problems with the digestive system. Many of these tests are performed on the same day as others so you may find that other patients in the waiting room are being seen at different times than you.
The different tests are all done in different ways and have different requirements before and during the tests. For this reason it is important that you take the time to read through any letters or information leaflets we send to you.
Most of our tests will involve being imaged with a “gamma-camera”. Being imaged by these cameras is painless, does not require you to go into a tunnel and you will normally be allowed to wear your own clothing. Depending on the part of the body being imaged, you may be asked to remove jewellery, belts or items from your pockets, but you will be advised if this is the case when you attend.
Almost all investigations involve being given the radioactive tracer as a small injection into a vein, normally in your arm. This is similar to having a blood test and shouldn’t be very painful. If you are worried about this, please speak to us to see if we can make it easier for you.
The department also runs a therapy service, treating cancers, thyroid problems and blood disorders. Many of these therapies will be performed on an out-patient basis and you will be free to go home after your treatment. Some patients will need to be treated in our “therapy suite” on ward 31 in the Queen’s Centre for oncology and Haematology. If you need to be treated as an in-patient we will discuss this with you in advance and make sure that you are happy during your stay.
Most therapy patients will need to follow some radiation protection guidelines after attending. These might include being asked to sleep separately from your partner for a few days, to observe good bathroom hygiene precautions or to avoid prolonged close contact with small children. If this is the case we will send you a copy of the instructions in advance of the treatment, explain them fully to you on the day and give you a letter containing the instructions and the dates until they apply to take away with you.
We have created a series of information leaflets for some of the therapies that we perform in Hull. Please feel free to download and read these.
If you wish to know more about your test or therapy there are several sources of information we particularly recommend.
The British Nuclear Medicine Society, or BNMS, is the professional body which oversees the practice of nuclear medicine in the UK. The BNMS have a section on their website which is dedicated to patients and explains more about nuclear medicine and the various procedures carried out in British hospitals.
Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust is an award winning national charity dedicated to supporting patients with thyroid cancer. The Butterfly website contains information for patients including stories from patients who have been treated for thyroid cancer, information about the disease and a description of a typical treatment pathway.
The Nuclear Medicine Department has also created a series of patient information leaflets about some of the different procedures we perform.
Finally, if there is a question you want to ask us about nuclear medicine in general or about your visit to us, please contact the department at Castle Hill on (01482) 622125 or at Hull Royal on (01482) 674782.