Lymphoscintigraphy: A Useful Radiological Method to Diagnose Cancer
Lymphoscintigraphy is a special treatment method that uses nuclear medicine imaging to provide pictures called scintigrams of the lymphatic system. In this nuclear medicine, physicians use small amount of radioactive material to treat several diseases including cancer, heart disease and many other abnormalities within the body. Its procedures are noninvasive and usually painless. They use radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers.
The lymphatic system is a network of blood vessels that circulate the fluid (also called lymph) and cells of the immune system throughout the body. In lymphoscintigraphy, we take images of the pathways of lymphatic flow and lymph nodes after injection of radiopharmaceutical absorbed by the lymphatics. These images clearly demonstrate the unpredictability of lymphatic drainage pattern. After identification by lymphoscintigraphy, sentinel lymph node biopsy is performed in the patients.
In this treatment, a small amount of radioactive dye (Filtered Sulfur Colloid that is tagged with the radionuclide Technetium-99m) is injected into the affected area and then patient’s body is scanned by an imaging machine. The images taken by the scanning show the dye moving through your lymph vessels and can reveal the area where lymph fluid is blocked. There are some common uses where physicians perform lymphoscintigraphy, such as-to identify the sentinel lymph node to see the lymph drainage from tumor, to perform a biopsy, to assess the stage of cancer, to see the blockage points in the lymphatic system. This treatment is used to decrease unnecessary lymph node dissections where this is not necessary, so it reduces the risk of lymphedema. Lymphoscintigraphy is also used to treat breast cancer and malignant melanoma surgery with a high degree of success.