Confusion on Ct and nuclear bone scan

Hi, I am really confused from the readings I have done and want to ask for clarification.
My understanding is that a Ct scan gives details on organs soft tissue and bones? So I don’t understand why after a Ct scan I would be referred for a bone scan (nuclear) as this gives less information? Is that right?
What can it mean and is secondary metastic bone cancer the death sentence I think it is? (6 -25months at max)


Hello @mlp74

I’ve just seen your post from a couple of hours ago. Unfortunately I am not sure a BCN nurse is likely to respond until after Christmas as they don’t usually respond over the weekend and both Monday and Tuesday will be also be non-working days.

It sounds like you are very anxious about your upcoming scans and why they are being arranged and what the results will entail. I am sorry I can’t offer you any specific responses to your questions as I don’t have any personal experience of your particular circumstances.

I anticipate that some of the lovely forum users will be along at some point and will share some of the experiences which I hope will be helpful

Sending you lots of love

AM xxx


Hi, I’m not an expert and am not sure where you’re at with your treatment, but I had a CT scan plus others before surgery, chemo and radiotherapy, can’t remember them all now! I did have a bone density scan too, could it be that? If so, that maybe as to check your bone density in relation to the treatment you might be having? Big hugs and hope you’re ok x


Hi, sorry you are anxious about the scan. I am not sure what the bone scan is but I’m sure you would be sent for an MRI if they thought you had bone mets. I have secondary breast cancer with bone mets, diagnosed in April 2020 and on my first line of treatment. I know ladies who are still with us after 9,15, and 20 years.
Hope this gives you some reassurance before you can ask your breast care nurse or a BCN nurse.
Take care. Xx


The bone scan looks at ‘activity’ in the bones. It gives supplementary info. It is usually quicker to organise. They are often used in tandem at diagnosis or during treatment. They look at the whole skeleton while the CT is usually more focussed on say ‘Thorax, Abdomen, pelvis’- so ribs , spinal and pelvic bones along with abdominal organs. A bone scan will look at all bones from skull to toes. They sometimes are used to confirm or rule out metastases.
Maybe there is an abnormal looking bone on CT but on bone scan there is no sign of activity so unlikely to be a met. Or it can confirm suspicion of an active metastases.
It sounds as though your team is being thorough which is not necessarily a worry. Unfortunately, the waiting is the worst part.


Thank you all so much for your replies. They have helped more than you could know.


Not sure what you mean in terms of scans
CT, PET-CT, MRI or Dexa we get them all depending on the situation

Dexa is A bone density scan uses low dose X-rays to see how dense (or strong) your bones are . Bone density scans are often used to diagnose or assess your risk of osteoporosis, a health condition that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break. >> If you need bone support meds or not.

CT you have had soft tissue and bone
MRI different level of sensitivity good for bone, spine and nerves etc
PET-CT is the one where you have radiolabelled marker IV to look for active metastases.

Trust your Onc team, ask them why and can you see the images, ask them to explain what they / you can see. Face to face appointment needed.

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Hi mip74
Hope you are doing ok.
I am a stage 4 thriver diagnosed last year with mets to my bones and liver. I was diagnosed er+,pr+ her 2 neg but after 3 treatments including 2 clinical trials i was getting progression so i asked for another biopsy in my hip bone and i am now triple negative. Its not uncommon this can happen.
I have just started on doxorubicin pegylated liposomal. I have had a few rounds of radiotherapy for pain relief.
Every 2 months i have scans, CT and then a bone scan.
The bone scan sees so much more in the skeletal areas, as the CT is more for soft tissue and organs.
I have had a few pet scans as sometimes my CT scan hadn’t picked up on how my liver is fairing.
I take a valium sometimes for my scans as its a very anxious time, i find it relaxes me.
The waiting is hard, but i try and keep busy with my two children.
Mestatic breast cancer is not like a death sentence like it used to be, there are so many treatments out there. I have already tried 2 clinical trials as i have the pik3ca mutation as well.
I treat it as a chronic illness and i have to have meds everyday.
I have to much to do with my children, that i dont actually look at the statistics. We are all individuals and i have hope.
Not to say i dont worry, but non of us really know with or without cancer whats going to happen.
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas lovely as hard as it can be try and take one day at a time.
Let us know how you go with your scans. It is normal to have the both scans to get a good overall picture of whats happening doesnt necessary mean you have bone mets.
I actually said to my oncologist when she was going through my scans, i look quite good :sweat_smile:.
Keep strong :muscle:
Big hugs :hugs::hugs:


I had a CT scan which showed suspicions bone compression. This was followed by a nuclear bone scan to determine if it was cancer, which thankfully it wasn’t. I think the CT scan shows something suspicious whilst the bone scan shows more detail. But it is not always bad news as in my case so try to stay positive. Best wishes

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Thank you all you lovely lot! Reading your replies and experiences is helping so much. Wishing you all a lovely Christmas xx


The nurses are off until the 27 when I’m sure they will reply.

Do you have a 24/7 helpline you could call, they may be able to clarify?

I hope you get the answers you require and that forum users have helped a little.


Hi mlp
I am so sorry you have all this worry and stress particularly at this time when lotsof services are not as available.
They do bone scans as they cover lower and upper bones and concentrate on if there is any activity in any bones (even if there is it doesn’t neceassarily mean cancer) Your team are trying to get as full a picture as they can which is good.
Most importantly, let me reassure you that if it did turn out you have bone mets it most definitely isn’t an immediate death sentence. Treatments have improved over the years and i formation sites/Google are often out of date about outcomes/prognosis.
I have extensive bone mets and I hope I can give you some hope by telling you that I have been living with bone mets since March 2010, yes, 13 years! I too feared an imminent death when I got my diagnosis but 13 years on I’m still here and know several women with bone mets 10 years plus survivors too. So please hold onto hope and know that it is ppssible to live for many years with mets. xx


Hello mlp74

Thank you for your question.

It sounds like a difficult time for you, especially as you have been told you need a bone scan. I wonder if it might be easier to call us and talk this through. We often find we can help people more by speaking to them on the phone. If so call us on 0808 800 6000.

As @Mindy63 says the bone scan gives extra information and looks at all the bones and therefore often scans the whole body. They will be looking for any activity or changes in the bones. A CT scan is most often used to look at the chest and or belly (abdomen) to see if breast cancer has spread to other organs, like the lungs or liver. You may want to ask your treatment team why they want to offer you the bone scan. Waiting for scans and results can be a very stressful time. Stress and anxiety are common after a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Treatments for secondary breast cancer have improved and as @JulieD says many women can live well with secondary breast cancer for many years. Secondary breast cancer can be treated, but it can’t be cured. Treatment aims to control the cancer, relieve any symptoms, and maintain health, wellbeing and a good quality of life for as long as possible.

We offer a range of free supportive services for anyone who has had a diagnosis of breast cancer which you may be interested in. They include face to face and online courses and events.

Do call our helpline if you would like to talk this through or have any further questions. The helpline team have time to listen to your concerns, talk things through and signpost you to more support and information. Your call will be confidential, and the number is free from UK landlines and all mobile networks. The number is 0808 800 6000, (Relay UK -prefix 18001).

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Best wishes


Breast Care Nurse

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