Medical applications

Radioactivity and radioactive isotopes are frequently used in medicine and have an important role in both diagnostics and therapy.

The first diagnostic machines applied X-rays to get simple information about the patient’s body. To obtain more detailed information, other imaging techniques have been developed such as Computer Tomography (CT) and mammography. Nuclear medicine imaging systems for instance the gamma-camera, PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) use radioactive isotopes injected in the patient’s body to visualize the function of organs and cell malformations.

Radioactivity can also be used for therapeutic purposes. Based on the location of the source two techniques can be distinguished. In nuclear medicine therapy, we use injected radiopharmaceuticals to treat or control cancer. External radiation therapy is a non-invasive technique to irradiate the patient with linear accelerator, cobalt unit, proton and heavy particles therapy. Brachytherapy is another form of radiation therapy, where sealed radioisotopes are placed directly in the tumour to concentrate high dose on a small area.

Infographics published by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission about medical imaging and radiotherapy, nuclear medicine, diagnostic imaging, etc. This page also faces some nuclear Mythbusters related to medical applications ( Language: English.

Few FAQ classified by topics including medical applications. Language: English and Dutch.

Summary about nuclear applications in medicine. Language: English.

Video from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) about the role of nuclear techniques in medicine (diagnosis and treatment) and the implications of use radiation (quality and safety) specifying the role of IAEA in the area. This video has a suitable level for secondary school students. Language: English.

Short video (~3 minutes) to introduce the basic concepts of nuclear medicine separated in diagnosis and treatment. Very clear and suitable for secondary school students. Language: English.

Video from the AIPES Nuclear Medicine Awareness Working group for introducing nuclear medicine (in a more completed way then the previous one). The different phases of nuclear medicine are detailed and application in the different medicine areas is commented. The level is suitable for secondary school students. Language: English.

Web page from the NIBIB (National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering). It includes a summary of nuclear medicine which advanced contents. Language: English.

Set of videos by EANM (European Association of Nuclear Medicine) suitable for secondary school level. These videos are pedagogical cartoons about some aspects of nuclear medicine. Language: English.

CAN (Canadian Nuclear Association) web page. Basics on radiotherapy (this topic is not dealt in the other links). Language: English.

Learn Oncology video: In this video, the main concepts of how radiotherapy works are explained in an attractive and easy to understand way. This video explains basics on ionizing radiation and their effects in tumour and normal tissue. Language: English.

Video of about 4 minutes from LLUHealth, where nuclear medicine as a career profile is explained by real workers. Language: English.