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Nuclear Medicine Technologists

History

The origins of nuclear medicine can be traced to the turn of the 20th century when Marie Curie and her fellow scientists discovered radium. Radium, however, had no medical application until after World War II, when scientists discovered ways of producing artificial radionuclides. This led to the development of nuclear medicine.

In nuclear medicine, an image is transmitted that enables the physician to diagnose diseased tissue and functional disorders. Unlike X-rays, however, where the radiation passes through the body to expose photographic film, in nuclear medicine the radiation comes from radioactive isotopes inside the body. A compound is made radioactive (called a radiopharmaceutical) and then is injected into or swallowed by the patient. The rates of absorption and elimination can be determined by measuring the radiation over a period of time with special cameras. This information is then used in the diagnosis and treatment of certain diseases, such as a dysfunctional thyroid gland or cancer.

All forms of radiation are potentially harmful, but carefully controlled and precisely directed doses of radiation are used with great success. Professional technologists are educated in the use of nuclear medicine, which has dramatically changed health care.

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