Bone Scan Interpretation In Prostate Cancer – How This Diagnosis Is Carried Out

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Staging is almost always necessary in prostate cancer diagnosis to determine how much the cancer has grown before treatment is accorded to the malignancy. Localized cancers confined within the prostate are easily treated; locally advanced prostate malignant tumors have started to escape to the immediate surrounding tissues and constitute a bit more of a problem; while metastatic disease is growing outside the prostate and its immediate environs, possibly to more distant organs.

This kind of prostate cancer sometimes spreads to the bones, and a radionuclide bone scan is the technique that is most often used to test for a spread. Tiny amounts of radioactive substance injected into the veins are used to highlight areas of unusual activity known as “hot spots”, where cancer cells are expanding. A number of other tests also used to help determine the stage of disease, such as CT scans, MRIs, or x-rays, also contribute to the efficacy of this effort and can detect even very small groups of cancer cells to guide treatment options and to predict outcomes.

Bone scans not only detect the spread of cancer to the bones but they also help to find bone fractures that do not show up on bone x-rays and identify areas of bone that are damaged by infection or other bone conditions. Many specialists in cancer treatment and management often employ the same techniques to further evaluate areas that appear abnormal on the other tests that were carried out, viz. the x-rays, CAT scans, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

Bone scan interpretation in prostate cancer is not too complex a procedure either. Once the injected radioactive substance (or tracer) is evenly dispersed throughout the bones, the hot spots and the cold spots begin to show up on the scanner after a couple of hours. The areas of bone in the body that have undergone increased growth or breakdown with respect to other normal bones are bound to absorb increased amounts of the tracer material and they light up as the “hot spots” when the pictures are taken by a gamma camera. The other areas of bone that do not absorb the tracer will alternatively appear as “cold spots” in the same pictures.

Do not be fooled; neither of these areas is considered normal when dealing with bone metastasis of prostate cancer. The hot spots may be caused by the cancer or by any number of other factors like fracture, infection, arthritis, or chronic bone diseases; while the cold spots, less commonly seen, may be as a result of multiple myeloma or metabolic bone conditions.

Once settled in the bone, the carcinomas start interfering with the normal health and strength of the bones, causing the signature bone pains, and the fractures, and other complications that can significantly impair one’s health. This is why early detection of bone metastases using the bone scans is critical to determine the best treatment strategy for the complication, and ward off further complications.

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