Several nanoscale carriers (nanoparticles, liposomes, water-soluble polymers, micelles and dendrimers) have been developed for targeted delivery of cancer diagnostic and therapeutic agents. These carriers can selectively target cancer sites and carry large payloads, thereby improving cancer detection and therapy effectiveness. Further, the combination of newer nuclear imaging techniques providing high sensitivity and spatial resolution such as dual modality imaging with positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) and use of nanoscale devices to carry diagnostic and therapeutic radionuclides with high target specificity can enable more accurate detection, staging and therapy planning of cancer. The successful clinical applications of radiolabeled monoclonal antibodies for cancer detection and therapy bode well for the future of nanoscale carrier systems in clinical oncology. Several radiolabeled multifunctional nanocarriers have been effective in detecting and treating cancer in animal models. Nonetheless, further preclinical, clinical and long-term toxicity studies will be required to translate this technology to the care of patients with cancer. The objective of this review is to present a brief but comprehensive overview of the various nuclear imaging techniques and the use of nanocarriers to deliver radionuclides for the diagnosis and therapy of cancer.