Identifying the 'nuclear' in nuclear medicine as high benefit

RESTON, Va. -- Say the word nuclear and it conjures up mistaken ideas about radiation, an invisible, odorless and intangible force that allows doctors to non-invasively see into the body. Say the words nuclear medicine, and its powerful reality is that it is highly beneficial to life, said Jonathan M. Links, former SNM president, who has written an overview on understanding radiological and nuclear terrorism in the October issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

"When people hear the words radiation and radioactivity, they initially think negative thoughts," said Links, professor and director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md. "The public's perception of the risks of radiation is that radiation is highly risky. It's best to get the scientific facts. In reality, radiation--a release of energy--allows doctors to effectively diagnose and treat disease," noted Baltimore's radiation terror expert and co-author of "Understanding Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism as Public Health Threats: Preparedness and Response Perspectives."

The use of nuclear medicine--giving tiny amounts of radioactive materials to patients to examine molecular processes in the body to diagnose and treat a variety of diseases--continues to grow and evolve. Every major hospital in this country has a nuclear medicine department. Last year, 19.7 million nuclear medicine procedures were performed on 17.2 million women, men and children in more than 7,200 medical sites in the United States--a 15 percent increase from four years ago. Every day, about 55,000 women, men and children undergo nuclear medicine (also called molecular imaging) procedures to evaluate heart disease, detect cancer and determine response to treatment, diagnose and evaluate brain disorders and locate stress fractures.

When it comes to nuclear medicine, Links says the public should keep in mind

Contact: Maryann Verrillo
Society of Nuclear Medicine

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