NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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The NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms features 7,780 terms related to cancer and medicine.

Browse the dictionary by selecting a letter of the alphabet or by entering a cancer-related word or phrase in the search box.

bone scan
(bone skan)
A procedure to check for abnormal areas or damage in the bones. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the blood. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner (a special camera that takes pictures of the inside of the body). A bone scan may be used to diagnose bone tumors or cancer that has spread to the bone. It may also be used to help diagnose fractures, bone infections, or other bone problems.

EnlargeBone scan; drawing shows patient lying on a table that slides under the scanner, a technician operating the scanner, and a monitor that will show images made during the scan.

Bone scan. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the patient's bloodstream and collects in abnormal cells in the bones. As the patient lies on a table that slides under the scanner, the radioactive material is detected and images are made on a computer screen or film.