Atomic Medicine – How Nuclear Techniques Are Changing Health Care

Nuclear Medicine

The Role of Nuclear Medicine

We all hope for a long and healthy life, but illness, accidents and lifestyle can get in the way. For many it’s a question of living conditions.

When available nuclear techniques can help with diagnosis, treatment and management of a wide range of illnesses. They can contribute to better nutrition and identify deficiencies at an early stage.


Proper nutrition is fundamental to human health. A poor diet can lead to undernutrition and obesity. This increases the risk of illness.

In children, deficiencies that are not easily visible, can seriously affect their growth and development. Through the use of stable isotope techniques, we can find out what’s happening in our bodies.

This information helps develop and evaluate programs to tackle all forms of malnutrition and prevents diseases. It can be used to assess infant feeding practices and analyze diet quality by measuring the quantity and absorption of key nutrients and vitamins in the body.


The proper diagnosis of injuries and the early detection of diseases greatly increase the chance for effective treatment. Some medical imaging techniques use radiation to create visual representations of the inside of the body.

These can use x-rays alone or can be combined with medicines that contain radioactive materials. These radiopharmaceuticals are taken up by the organ or part of the body of interest.

The radioactivity emitted from these medicines is detected by special devices and provides information on the location and spread of a disease. These methods can support the accurate and timely diagnosis of problems such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.


Cancer is one of the main causes of death worldwide. And it’s on the increase.

Radiotherapy is one of the most widely used methods for cancer treatment. It uses radiation to destroy tumors.

Some cancers can also be treated with radiopharmaceuticals. These can be taken orally and cancerous cells are destroyed through their radioactivity.

Following treatment for cancer nuclear techniques can be used to monitor the progress of the therapy.

Quality & Safety

Whether for diagnosis or treatment, the use of radiation in medicine must be carefully controlled. Too little radiation can be ineffective, while too much can be harmful.

So the medical teams that use radiation medicine must be properly trained and prepared.


For over sixty years, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA has been supporting the use of nuclear techniques in medicine around the world in safe and effective ways. The IAEA helps countries to set up medical centers that offer radiation medicine services and to procure the essential equipment needed to deliver high quality care and treatment.

It supports national efforts to produce and prepare radiopharmaceuticals for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Since the radioactivity of some of these medicines decreases quickly, they have to be prepared close to the hospitals where they’re needed.

The IAEA facilitates training for international medical professionals and students, and offers remote learning via its online resources such as the human health campus which is used by health professionals all over the world. Safety standards developed by the IAEA protect patients and medical staff from the potential harmful effects of radiation.

And the IAEA assists when radioactive sources used in medicine and no longer needed and must be stored or disposed of safely and securely. An IAEA laboratory provides a significant contribution to achieving consistency in radiation dosimetry worldwide.

Their Dosimetry Laboratory offers services that ensure the machines for cancer treatment are calibrated correctly and the patients receive the right dose of radiation.

We all hope for a long and healthy life. Nuclear techniques help us to achieve this goal. With the IAEA support, countries can fight malnutrition and provide the safe and quality health care all people – all over the world deserve..


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