Understanding Nuclear Medicine And Its Applications Essay Example
Nuclear medicine is a novel way of treatment still being largely explored by countries worldwide. Defined as the employment of safe and small amounts of radioactive pharmaceuticals to non-invasively treat various diseases (Fahey, 2012), nuclear medicine shows great potential in the area of medicine. Aside from providing non-invasive treatment, nuclear medicine also includes the use of radiation to detect histological changes resulting from a disease which helps in detecting its severity as well as the treatment options available (Fahey, 2012).
The type of radiation commonly used in nuclear medicine is the ionizing radiation (Dowd, 1994). As the name implies, ionizing radiation is the radiation that is capable of ionizing an atom by removing electrons from its orbit (WHO, 2015). Ionizing radiation may be further classified as (1) alpha-, (2) beta-, (3) gamma-, and (4) x-radiation (Dowd, 1994). Unable to penetrate thin objects such as paper or clothing, alpha-radiation is the least penetrating ionizing radiation and considered as having no significant use in the medical field (Dowd, 1994). Beta-radiation, on the other hand, is more penetrating than alpha-radiation and is used in some radioactive apparatuses or procedures such as PET or the Positron Emission Tomography and P-32 or Phosphorus-32 which is used in reducing accumulated fluid in the serosal cavities as a result of metastatic carcinoma (Dowd, 1994). Aside from PET and P-32, beta-radiation is also emitted by Iodine-131 or I-131, which is largely used in treating thyroid carcinoma (Dowd, 1994). Despite the many uses of beta-radiation in nuclear medicine, gamma- and x-radiation are the most commonly used types of radiation in nuclear medicine (Dowd, 1994). Gamma- and x-radiation are considered as both ionizing radiation and electromagnetic waves (Dowd, 1994). Furthermore, both are considered as identical, except in origin as gamma-rays originate from within the nucleus while x-rays originate from outside the nucleus (Dowd, 1994). Gamma-radiation and x-rays are used in several procedures and apparatuses of nuclear medicine such as the I-131, Cesium-137 or Cs-137 which is employed largely in brachytherapy, and Cobalt-60 or Co-60 which is used in teletherapy (Dowd, 1994).
Patients who need to undergo radiotherapy or radioactive imaging may be asked to follow various guidelines in order to remain safe and avoid excessive irradiation. General guidelines to be observed by patients before undergoing nuclear medicine procedures include the removal of jewelry and other metallic accessories and the disclosure of pregnancy and other medical history to the physician doing the procedure (Palo Alto Medical Foundation, 2015). Aside from such general guidelines, more specific guidelines are required to be observed in accordance to the nuclear medicine procedures applied (Palo Alto Medical Foundation, 2015).
Nuclear medicine, considered as a promising breakthrough in the field of medicine, is widely applied as a treatment to various life-threatening diseases such as cancer and heart diseases (Schrevens, Lorent, Dooms, and Vansteenkiste, 2004; Teunissen, Kwekkeboom, Valkema, and Krenning, 2011; Delbeke and Segall, 2011). As exemplified by some studies, nuclear medicine is applied as one of the most effective treatments to lung cancer and neuroendocrine tumors (Teunissen et al., 2011; Schrevens et al., 2004). Furthermore, nuclear medicine is also widely applied in cardiologic procedures and is called as nuclear cardiology (Delbeke and Segall, 2011). Nuclear cardiology is especially common in USA where it accounts for more than 50% of all nuclear medicine procedures done (Delbeke and Segall, 2011). Aside from serving as treatment, nuclear medicine also provides exemplary imaging in order to accurately evaluate the severity and condition of the disease as observed from within the body (Teunissen et al., 2011; Schrevens et al., 2004).
While it is true that nuclear medicine has very promising advantages in the field of medicine, especially in treating and diagnosing certain kinds of ailments and tumors, the use of radiation also has negative effects that need to be observed in order to keep the nuclear medicine procedures safe and effective at the same time. Negative effects of using radiation as therapy may include damage of tissues and irradiation of healthy and normal cells as most radioactive procedures are not cell selective (Fahey, 2012; Dowd, 1994). Also, prolonged exposure to radiation, as in the case of nuclear medicine therapy, may also cause the development of cancer and tumor (Fahey, 2012; Dowd, 1994). But with the ongoing exploration done in nuclear medicine research, more methodologies are being developed and refined to control and manage the development of side effects and keep nuclear medicine safe, and among such novel methodologies is the PET or Positron Emission Tomography.
PET is a novel nuclear procedure developed to (1) improve diagnosis and staging of cancer, (2) accurately evaluate tumors and determine whether they are benign or malignant, and (3) conveniently locate new-forming tumors and metastatic spread that are not found in conventional imaging procedures without invasive surgery (Schrevens et al., 2004). As exemplified by one study PET provides the gold standard in providing accurate and non-invasive imaging of tumors within the body (Schrevens et al., 2004).
Delbeke, D., and Segall, G.M. (2011). Status and Trends in Nuclear Medicine in the United States. The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 52(12), 24S-28S. DOI: 10.2967/jnumed.110.085688
Dowd, S.B. (1994). Practical Radiation Protection and Applied Radiobiology. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: W.B. Saunders Company
Fahey, F.H. (2012). What You Should Know About Radiation and Nuclear Medicine. SNM: Advancing Molecular Imaging and Therapy. Retrieved from http://snmmi.files.cms-plus.com/Fahey_PAAB_Risk_May2012_final.pdf
Palo Alto Medical Foundation. (2015). Nuclear Medicine: Patient Information. Retrieved from http://www.pamf.org/nucmed/patients/
Schrevens, L., Lorent, N., Dooms, C., and Vansteenkiste, J. (2004). The Role of PET Scan in Diagnosis, Staging, and Management of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. The Oncologist, 9, 633-643. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15561807
Teunissen, J.J.M., Kwekkeboom, D.J., Valkema, R., and Krenning, E.P. (2011). Nuclear medicine techniques for the imaging and treatment of neuroendocrine tumours. Endocrine-Related Cancer, 18, S27-S51. DOI: 10.1530/ERC-10-0282
WHO. (2015). Ionizing Radiation. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/about/what_is_ir/en/
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