Nuclear medicine is the use of small doses of radioactive elements also known as radiopharmaceuticals for medical purposes. It can be used to determine the severity, diagnosis, or treatment of a many different diseases. For diagnosis purposes radiopharmaceuticals are given to the patient to be put into the body. These radioactive elements are either injected, ingested, or inhaled. After that process the doctor will use a special camera to take pictures of the patient’s body. These radioactive materials give off emissions that the doctor can use to see inside the patient’s body and see what is wrong with them. Also one benefit of this is that it is less expensive than having to go through surgery to find out what is wrong and it is much more precise for the cost.
Nuclear medicine also can treat problems with the Thyroid gland and some scientist speculate that it can even help with treating some types of cancer. This type of treatment uses a special kind of iodine called an isotope. This isotope of iodine is called is called I-131 or iodine 131 and is a radioactive form of this element. One example of this would be the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland over produces on hormones and this causes intense weight to lose and a few other symptoms. This is common, and it has roughly two hundred thousand cases a year. Treatment of this starts with the patient swallowing a small amount of iodine 131 which absorbs in the bloodstream through gastrointestinal tract the and starts to gather at the thyroid gland. As it gathers there it starts to break down the cells of the thyroid gland. The patient will see results in three to six months.
Nuclear medicine comes in very small doses. In real measurements it ends up being millionths of a gram of the radioactive material. All sorts of radioactive isotopes are being used such as Technetium-99, Iodine-123, Indium-111, and Gallium-67. These isotopes do not affect the body as much as you would think it leaves the body in a couple of days though your bodies daily functions.
Each isotope has a half-life which is measured in hours. Half-life basically means how
long it will take it will take for half of the substance to decay away. This ensures safety in that most patient’s will have little to no radioactivity in their bodies after a couple of days of taking the material. Some doctors will use something called a gamma camera or the single-photon emission-computed tomography (SPECT). when they are treating someone with nuclear medicine. The camera can see the radiation coming from the patient. Some uses of this are getting to see the heart functioning and blood pumping, detecting problems with the heart, scan lungs for damage or trouble breathing, ability to look for bone fractures and many more uses. When the pictures are taken they are sent to a radiologist who interprets them and gives the results to the primary doctor.
There are some cons or risks when it comes to nuclear medicine for example there have been very rare cases of the patient being allergic to the radioactive material they were given. Also, there is a risk when it comes to pregnant women and nuclear medicine, so it is avoided if it is possible. There is a concern that with nuclear medicine you can get radiation poisoning. Doctors combat these concerns by stating that nuclear treatment gives a total radiation dose that is roughly compared to a regular x-ray scan or a CT scan. Also, some wonder about the side effects of discomfort, but doctors say that it is painless and has little to no side effects.
In conclusion nuclear medicine is where small amounts of radiopharmaceuticals are put into the body to diagnoses, determine the severity, and treat a variety of diseases. There are some risks, but they are rare and if you have a properly trained doctor you should be fine. Nuclear medicine helps with treating by destroying the affect part of your body, and diagnoses by taking pictures with a camera that can see radiation. In the end nuclear medicine can be used to treat bad things and will likely make its mark on the world in the near future.