Molecular Imaging - Nuclear Medicine

Molecular Imaging

Molecular imaging uses small amounts of radiotracers to help diagnose a variety of diseases using painless non-invasive imaging. These radiotracers have numerous benefits including visualizing the cause of problems in specific organs and location of cancer and infection in the body. Keep reading for more information on the various forms of molecular imaging offered at Marin Health.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

PET is a noninvasive form of imaging which has a significant impact on the diagnosis and management of many diseases.

The most common use is a single scan of your whole body to detect, localize, stage, and monitor cancer, both before, during, and after treatment. PET can also differentiate benign from malignant conditions. The PET radiotracer finds the cancer cells in your body and can localize even tiny deposits of cancer. It can reveal where the cancer is hiding and whether or not you are responding to your treatment.

Marin Health is also in the unique position to offer Axumin® PET scans. Axumin is a special radiotracer with only limited regional availability, which is designed to specifically detect recurrence of prostate cancer after patients have been treated.

At Marin Health our doctors also utilize PET for the evaluation of neurologic diseases such as dementia, memory loss, and seizures.

MarinHealth PET/CT services are offered at a dedicated facility in San Rafael, in the same building as MarinHealth Urgent Care | A UCSF Health Clinic. In keeping with our commitment to providing the community with access to the best and most advanced technologies, scans are performed using the state-of-the-art Siemens Biograph PET/CT. The advantages of this leading-edge scanner include enhanced patient comfort, shorter scan times, and outstanding image quality.

General Molecular Imaging

Small amounts of radiotracers are designed to interact with specific organs or in some cases specific types of cancer. Real time imaging is then performed of the area of interest in your body. This allows doctors to determine the cause of organ dysfunction or the location of tumor and infection in your body.

The organs which are typically examined using molecular imaging include the thyroid gland, lungs, stomach, liver, gall bladder and bile ducts, intestine, kidneys/ureter/bladder, spleen, and bones.

Molecular imaging can localize sites of infection in the body, as well as examine joint replacements for evidence of infection or loosening of the implanted hardware.

For cancer patients, in addition to PET imaging, specific other forms of radiotracers can be used for the evaluation and detection of a variety of cancers including thyroid and parathyroid cancer, bone tumors, metastatic cancer to the bones, neuroendocrine tumors, as well as localization of lymph nodes prior to surgery for breast cancer and melanoma.

Cardiac Molecular Imaging

Cardiac molecular imaging involves the injection of a "radiotracer", which circulates into the heart. The PET scan detects the radioactive emissions from the radiotracer and uses those emissions to create detailed 3D images in real time. These images allow nuclear medicine physicians to evaluate the health and function of a patient’s heart.

Through the use of cardiac molecular imaging, experts can evaluate:

  • Viability: The health and function of the cells in the heart. This test, known as Cardiac PET viability, is used to check for the presence of disease in the heart walls or blood vessels and to determine whether the heart has suffered damage from a previous heart attack.
  • Perfusion: The amount of blood flow into the heart. This is studied through a test known as Cardiac SPECT perfusion. This test requires comparing two images, one of the heart at rest and the other of the heart under stress. The stress image can be created by having the patient walk or jog on a treadmill or by giving the patient a drug that challenges the heart.

Molecular Therapeutics

We offer targeted molecular therapeutic treatments including Ra-223 Xofigo for metastatic prostate cancer as well as Y-90 microsphere therapy performed in conjunction with Interventional Radiology for treatment of primary and metastatic tumors in the liver.