If a blood test indicates an abnormal blood cell count, the physician may order a nuclear isotope bone scan because such scans can detect metastasized cancer, according to Mayo Clinic. A bone scan may also help assess the effectiveness of treatment in current cancer patients.
A nuclear bone scan measures the absorption rate of radionuclides, or tracers, explains the American Cancer Society. Diseases like cancer cause affected tissue to absorb abnormally low or high amounts of such tracers. A nuclear bone scan reveals hot and cold spots that are used to identify the location and stage of the cancer.
Nuclear bone scans have limitations. Sometimes, they cannot find small tumors, and they don't always clearly show the difference between malignant and benign tumors. Other tests, such as traditional x-rays, are often done in tandem with nuclear bone scans, states the American Cancer Society.