Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nuclear Medicine

             Ever since its first use over 50 years ago Nuclear Chemistry plays a crucial role in many different medical fields, especially in cancer treatments.  Contrary to popular belief, nuclear chemistry is not only used for treatment, but also has an important part in cancer detecting and monitoring.  PET scans are used to help doctors pin point the location of cancer cells.  Radiation therapy is then used to eliminate the cancer from the patient.  PET scans and radiation therapy are usually the first process a cancer patient goes through.

PET scan Machine(7)
PET scans(positron emission tomography scans)(1) are used to check the progress of the cancer treatments and to pin point the cancer cells.  First, doctors inject radioactive sugar(Fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose) into the patients arm(1).  The reason behind using sugar is because cancer uses sugar to grow and expand, so when the radioactive glucose, also known as a Radiotracer, is injected it is immediately sent to the cancer cells(3).  Once the radiotracer has reached the cancer cells, the patient is put into a doughnut like machine resembling an MRI.  The machine is able to detect the energy that the radiation is giving off, and is then able to put together a 3D picture of the patient and the cancer within the patient(3).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

PET scan Image(6)


Radiation Machine(10)
After the cancer is located, an oncologist determines were the best place to hit the cancer.  This has to be extremely accurate and consistent each time, in order to maintain consistency the oncologist tattoos three small dots the size of a human hair which is used to align the machine(4). The oncologist must also decide on the dose, which varies from 60Gy to 80Gy(2), this depends on whether the patient is undergoing chemotherapy and the patients’ health. Radiation therapy is affective because it kills cancer cells, this also means that any healthy cells that are hit also die off(2).

Radiation symbol(9)
Although nuclear medicine is vital to cancer treatments, the radiation produced can cause some serious side effects.  A human being can only be exposed to a certain amount of radiation in one lifetime(4).  The side effects are similar to the flu, which includes vomiting, Nausea, loss of appetite, severe burns and abdominal pain(2).  Radiation can also affect your entire nervous system and cause hot flashes, loss of control in certain areas of the body and typically when receiving the radiotracer dye a patient will feel as if they are peeing their pants but they aren’t(5).  There is also many long term affects because when radiation beams are sent to hit the cancer cells the can often hit other organs such as the heart or lungs(4).  Cancer survivors must go in often for checkups and routine tests to make sure their body has been able to cope with the effects of radiation therapy(5).

  1. Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Web. <>.
  2. Radiation Therapy, Cancer Treatment, Radiotherapy, Radiation Oncology,." ELEKTA. Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre for Cancer Support. Web. 04 Apr. 2011. <>.
  3. "Nuclear Medicine, PET." RadiologyInfo - The Radiology Information Resource for Patients. Web. 04 Apr. 2011. <>.
  4. Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: What Breast Cancer Patients Need to Know." Web. 04 Apr. 2011. <>.
  5. "Radiation Therapy and You - National Cancer Institute." Comprehensive Cancer Information - National Cancer Institute. Web. 04 Apr. 2011. <>.
                                       IMAGE SOURCES
6. "PET Scan - Division of Nuclear Medicine - BWH Department of Radiology." Brigham And Women's Hospital - A Teaching Affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Web. 06 Apr. 2011.
7. PET Scan, PET/CT, CT Scan Imaging, South Florida, Oncology, Cancer. Web. 06 Apr. 2011.
8. "Brain Fluorine-18 Fluorodeoxyglucose Imaging with Dual-Head Coincidence Gamma Camera:Comparison with Dedicated Ring-Detector PositronEmission Tomography -- Fukuchi Et Al. 21 (1): 99." American Journal of Neuroradiology. Web. 06 Apr. 2011.
9. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.
10. Inforamtion On Radiation Therapist Salary. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>.