SRP Week 1: Radioactive

Source:  SRP Week 1: Radioactive    Tag:  dosimetry check
Whenever I drink coffee, I sip at it. I can only take maybe 3 sips of the 100% bitter stuff at a time. I try to hide my coffee-drinking-ineptness from my co-workers, as though there is peer pressure to be a good coffee drinker. I guess this is what you call work culture.

This first week was an interesting one to say the least. I got called a newbie for mistaking the lotion moisturizing dispenser for a hand sanitizer dispenser. I must admit, I have never come across a lotion moisturizing dispenser in a hospital setting before. 

As part of my introduction to the hospital, I was allowed to have a self-guided tour. I admit, scrounging about, and lurking in the corners and tunnels of the hospital is the most exciting thing I've done in a while. You gain a sense of authority when you're the only one in an enormous underground tunnel. You can walk with clipped steps and hear the sound roll and echo.

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To start off with the description of my internship, I will explain Nuclear Medicine. There are two types of medical imaging: structural, and functional. Nuclear Medicine is in the latter, where it uses the bodies physiological functions to help analyze and provide imaging. By using radioactive tags, Nuclear Radiologists can see if there are any abnormalities in the body. For example, Iodine 131 is used in the imaging of thyroid cancer. By using a detector, one can determine the path Iodine 131 takes through the body before it leaves or decomposes.  Because thyroid tissue uses Iodine to create the thyroid hormone, the detector will show a gathering of Iodine in the thyroid gland. If a person has thyroid cancer, and is forced to have their thyroid gland removed, a full body Iodine scan will show if there is any thyroid tissue remaining. If there is metastasis, the spreading of cancerous cells throughout the body, the cancer cells will absorb Iodine, because it is still thyroid tissue, and will show up on the scan.

Because I am not officially a Nuclear Medicine student, I am not allowed to do many of the hands-on activities. On the other hand, I can do some of my own research with small radioactive sources and a detector. I spent most of my first week discussing and brainstorming with my on-site mentor, Mr. McCormick. Our idea is to check the attenuation of certain types of tissues. Attenuation is the gradual loss in intensity of any kind of flux through a medium. In this case, it will be the amount of radiation absorbed by the material, which will be determined by placing it between the radiation source and the detector. Cancer by radiation comes mostly from two factors: attenuation, and mitotic rate of the tissues. If the mitotic rate is high, then the chance for cancer is also high because there is a chance for mutations to spiral out of control. So developing children or teenagers will be more vulnerable to radiation than adults. I hope to make a model using probability, attenuation, and mitotic rate to help determine the possibility of getting cancer at different ages/stages. 

A fascinating concept that I discussed with Mr. McCormick is radiation hormesis, the hypothesis that low doses of radiation is good because it stimulates repair mechanisms that would otherwise not be usually used. It not only negates the damage done by radiation, but may also help inhibit diseases not caused by radiation. It is a fascinating subject and I will continue to research the topic.

Signing off
-Phillip Yang