A bone scan may show whether any cancer cells have spread from the prostate to bone. If prostate cancer does spread to other parts of the body, bone is one of the most likely places to find it.
If your doctor has any concerns that the cancer may have spread outside the prostate, or wants to be sure that it has not spread, then they may want to do a bone scan. If you are concerned about why you are having a bone scan, do ask the doctor to explain what they are expecting to find. If you have any arthritis or have had a previous bone injury or fracture, please mention this to your doctor, as it will help them to interpret the scan results correctly.
The bone scan is done in the X-ray or nuclear medicine department of the hospital. A small amount of a safe radioactive dye is injected into a vein in your arm. This travels around your body in your bloodstream and collects in areas where bone cells are active. This process takes around two to three hours. You will be free to go for a walk outside the hospital during this time, or you may like to take a book along with you.
After two to three hours, the scan will begin. You will be asked to lie on a table while the machine moves down your body, taking pictures. This takes around half an hour. The camera will pick up ‘hot spots’ where the radioactive substance has collected. These hot spots can show where the cancer has spread to the bone, but they also show any areas of arthritis and other bone damage such as old fractures.
The doctor will look at the results of the scan carefully to see whether any cancer is present. You may need to have X-rays of any ‘hot spots’ to help your doctor to identify the difference between changes to the bone caused by cancer and changes caused by other damage such as arthritis or old fractures. If there is still doubt, you may need to have an MRI of these areas of the bone.