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UWI researchers explore risks of medical treatments that involve radiation

Radiation warning!  UWI researchers explore risks of medical treatments that involve radiation http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/radiation-warning-uwi-researchers-explore-risks-of-medical-treatments-that-involve-radiation_125898?profile=1373  BY FALON FOLKES, Staff reporter folkesf@jamaicaobserver.com, February 25, 2018

RESEARCHERS at The University of the West Indies (UWI) are working assiduously to gather information to educate Jamaicans about the risks of treatments that involve too much exposure to radiation.

The medical use of radiation is known for being the largest, man-made contribution to the overall annual radiation dose of humans receive.

An overview of the researchers’ study mentioned that, according to the World Health Organisation, more than 3.6 billion diagnostic examinations, 37 million nuclear medicine procedures and 7.5 million radiotherapy treatments are executed annually.

Head of the materials and Medical Physics Research Group, Professor Mitko Voutchkov, explained to the Jamaica Observer that radiation damages the (deoxyribonucleic acid) of the healthy tissue cells in one’s body.

“Cancer is the tissue cells that don’t have biological function. Interestingly, they grow quickly and the cancer spreads all over the body. So this is the radiation effect-radiation damage the cells,” he said.

In addition to this, radiation can also cause hair loss, redness of the skin, radiation burns, fatigue, and even osteoporosis, which is a medical condition in which a person’s bones become brittle and fragile.

“The risk comes from the medical diagnostics, especially if you go very frequently to CT (computed tomography) scan. If you do one or two per year it’s fine, but sometimes it [one’s illness] will require much more,” Professor Voutchkov explained.

“MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is not so much damaging. If they can have an MRI instead of CT scan, let them choose that,” he added.

With the rapid advancements in technology, modern medical radiation equipment are emitting higher radiation doses. The researchers are concerned about people’s risk of overexposure to this man-made radiation.

The research group’s priority is creating a radiation safety culture in medical radiation imaging and radiotherapy. A part of this mandate requires them to carry out “regular quality control and calibration of medical radiation equipment”.

A survey was done on radiological safety practices in diagnostic centres in Jamaica, to assess their compliance with the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act. Additionally, a control study was conducted in a New York hospital to compare the radiation safety and management practices to that of Jamaica.

The recommendation arising from these studies is that, a management system is needed to keep records of the dose measurements, storage of dosimeters (a device that keeps track of a person’s exposure to radiation), and their safe use.

It is Professor Voutchkov’s notion that Jamaica’s patients need to be educated on the effects that radiation can have on them when they do treatments at diagnostic centres.

“I travel abroad and I see everywhere that they have videos, they have brochures, so the patients, they get prepared, so they accept the risk. Here, we have nothing,” he said.

With adequate information, he told the Sunday Observer, patients can decide whether or not to consult their general practitioner about alternative treatments, where possible.

As for the diagnostic centres, the professor recommends that equipment be checked for radiation levels to which patients are exposed. He asserted that new diagnostic techniques are developed to lower radiation dose, because radiation use during medical diagnostics should be limited.

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February 27, 2018 - Posted by | OCEANIA, radiation

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