A bone scan might be suggested if the urologist/oncologist needs to check if the cancer has spread outside the prostate and into the bones. However, if your PSA level was low and the doctor said your cancer was low-risk, you may not have a bone scan.

What happens?

This test is done in hospital and you will probably be asked to go into the department a few hours before your scan is due. There, a tiny amount of a radioactive material is injected into a vein in your arm, possibly making you feel a bit hot or flushed for a minute or two. Your scan will take place a few hours later because the radioactive material is slowly taken into your bones. After this injection you may be able to leave the department, and come back in a few hours but always check this with the department you are attending.

Before the scan, you will possibly be asked to empty your bladder then you will be taken to a scanning room. Staff may ask you to take off any metal jewellery or metal fasteners. You will be asked to lie down on a narrow bed and will need to lie still in the same position, for about 15-20 minutes. Your whole body will be scanned by a special camera for any ‘hot spots’. Hot spots are areas that take up a lot of the radioactive material and this may point to a tumour being there. It’s worth telling the doctor or radiographer about old fractures or arthritic changes as these show up as hot spots.

As the radioactive material doesn’t cause any side-effects, you will be able to go home afterwards. You may be advised to drink plenty of fluids to help get rid of the small amount of radioactive material still in your body.

It may be wise not to be in close contact with pregnant women, babies or young children until the day after the scan. Ask for more advice on this at your bone scan.

At the same appointment as your bone scan, you may be advised to have a normal x-ray or CT scan to check for any wear and tear in the bones and joints.

What about the results?

You won’t get the results right away and it may take a few weeks before you hear. A doctor who specialises in studying scans will look at your bone scan in detail and send a report to the doctor who referred you for the bone scan. Ask who you should contact and when you are likely to hear about the results.