DMC Offers Nuclear Medicine Technology For Diagnosis and Treatment
The Department of Nuclear Medicine at Doctors Medical Center, under the direction of Jocelyn Espiritu, M.D., offers a variety of procedures with oncology applications right here in the Central Valley.
New Tools in the War on Cancer
Nuclear medicine uses radioactive isotopes ("heavy" versions of certain elements, such as iodine), which can be either injected or ingested, to diagnose and treat cancer, and to diagnose other diseases as well.
Some of the procedures we do at DMC are examples of "receptor-based diagnosis and treatment," new techniques that hold great promise as cancer therapies. Receptors are proteins through which a cell interacts with its environment for various purposes. The receptors in some kinds of malignant tumors, which enable them to grow and spread inside the body, may also prove to be their Achilles heel.
Science has discovered that specific radioisotopes seek out and bind with the receptors on specific kinds of tumor, permitting nuclear medicine specialists to diagnose the cancer, pinpoint its location in the body and target it with high doses of the same isotope to kill it. The advantages of this approach over chemotherapy, which kills surrounding tissues as well, are being studied.
Nuclear Medicine Options at DMC available at Doctors Medical Center:
The MIGB scan employs a special isotope to diagnose and treat neuroendocrine tumors.
Protascint scans can be used to pinpoint and stage tumors of the prostate gland.
Radioimmune therapy using two FDA-approved isotopes pinpoints and treats tumors in patients with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
A full-body I-131 scan employing radioactive iodine is used to detect cancerous thyroid glands after a physical exam has indicated their possible presence. If a tumor is found and a biopsy confirms the need for surgery, the isotope is used after the thyroid glands have been removed to pinpoint and treat any residues left by the cancer.
A full-body bone scan is used as a follow-up to treatment for lung, breast or prostate cancer to detect whether the cancer has spread.
"Things are evolving rapidly in this area," says Dr. Epsiritu, who is also called on to diagnose diseases other than cancer. For example, SPECT scans (single photon emission computed tomography) diagnose different kinds of dementia (such as Alzheimer's disease, Pick’s disease, Multi-infarct dementia) and also detect coronary artery disease.
Because this scan is more effective for diagnosing heart disease in women than the standard EKG, which yields many false positives with women patients, women may be scanned after EKG testing, or even before if they have elevated risk because of factors like smoking.
The SPECT scan is also ordered by cardiologists deciding on a treatment plan to measure the comparative risks of invasive versus non-invasive treatment options for heart disease.
Like the field itself, nuclear medicine at Doctors Medical Center is constantly growing. For more information about the procedures that are available at DMC, you or your physician may call (888) 284-6641.
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