Understanding Nuclear Medicine to Help Cancer Therapy

The incidence of cancer is still increasing from year to year. According to data from Globocan in 2020, the number of cancer cases in Indonesia reached 396,914 cases. Although there is no cure for cancer, there are various cancer treatment procedures that can help the patient's condition or slow its progression. One of the treatments that can be an option for cancer therapy is nuclear medicine.

What is nuclear medicine?

Nuclear medicine is an approach to treating cancer using radioactive materials. This treatment can be done side by side or after undergoing other treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery.

Cancer therapy with nuclear medicine is done by injecting radioactive molecules into a vein. Then, this drug will circulate in the body, attach to tumor cells, give radiation, and make the cells die.

There are several types of nuclear medicine for cancer therapy as below.

1. Radioimmunotherapy (RIT)

Radioimmunotherapy (RIT) combines radiation therapy and immunotherapy, a type of treatment that uses the body's immune system to fight cancer. The doctor will give a radioactive substance with monoclonal antibodies through an IV to kill cancer cells.

2. Radioactive iodine therapy (RAI)

RAI is performed to destroy thyroid tissue that cannot be surgically removed. This therapy also helps kill thyroid cancer cells that have spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

3. Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy involves administering high doses of radioactive material in the form of seeds, bands, or capsules that will be placed in or near the tumor to then kill the cells.

4. Radioembolization Y90

A combination of embolization and radiation therapy, usually done to treat liver cancer. Later, the radioactive material ytrium Y-90 is inserted into small particles of glass or resin, then these particles are placed in the blood vessels that feed the tumor.

These particles will block the blood supply to cancer cells and provide high doses of radiation to attack the tumor.

In addition to cancer therapy, nuclear medicine can also be used to diagnose disease and see how well the treatment is working.

What are the benefits of nuclear therapy in helping cancer treatment?

Various studies have shown that this therapy can provide potential in the treatment of cancer. Especially for cancer cells that have migrated from the tumor to the lymph nodes and secondary organs such as the spinal cord.

Patients who have undergone this therapy rarely develop cancer in the months or years that follow. However, nuclear medicine alone is not sufficient for the healing process. So, treatment must be combined with other therapies.

However, this treatment can control symptoms and shrink and stabilize the tumor in many patients. In fact, sometimes these effects can last for years.

Nuclear medicine may also be the best option for patients whose bodies are no longer responding to other treatments.

Over time, radioactive drugs may stop producing the effects of radioactivity and stop killing cancer cells. Therefore, nuclear therapy may have to be repeated several times in order to provide maximum benefit.

Is nuclear medicine safe for the human body?

Maybe many people are still worried about the effects of this treatment, because nuclear is often associated with dangerous things. In fact, nuclear medicine is very safe as long as its implementation is carried out according to standards.

This method has been used for more than six decades to diagnose disease. Nuclear medicine also uses small doses of radiation, so your radiation exposure is relatively low. In addition, the equipment used in Indonesia complies with the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP).

However, like other medical procedures, nuclear medicine is not without risks. There are still possible side effects that patients can experience afterward.

Side effects depend on the condition as well as the area being treated. If you get this treatment for brain cancer, you may experience hair loss, nausea, headaches, and blurred vision.

When you take this medication on your lungs or chest, some of the side effects may include coughing and shortness of breath. Allergic reactions are very rare. However, it is still important for you to tell your doctor if you have allergies. This includes if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

For more information about this medication, consult your doctor.

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