One out of every three patients entering a hospital will undergo some form of nuclear medicine procedure.
AECL's National Research Universal (NRU) Reactor provides more than half of the world’s medical isotopes to make these procedures possible. The medical isotopes created by NRU help over 76,000 people every day and 27 million people every year, in more than 80 countries.
Medical isotopes are used in medicine in three distinct ways:
- Radioactive isotopes can be injected into a patient, and their emitted energy can then be captured on film. The resulting image is an important diagnostic tool.
- Gamma rays emitted from a radioactive source can be directed onto a tumour, destroying the cancerous cells.
- Radioactive isotopes can be manufactured into drugs. Once injected into a patient, the drug will accumulate in a certain part of the body, such as a tumour. As the isotopes decay and release energy, that energy destroys the tumour.
NRU produces the following isotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic use:
Molybdenum-99: Used for medical diagnosis (imaging) of the brain, thyroid, heart, lungs, liver, kidney, spleen and bone marrow.
Iodine-131: Used in therapy, imaging and diagnosis (primarily for thyroid cancer).
Iodine-125: Used in in-vitro diagnostics, bone densitometry devices, protein iodination and therapeutic seed (implants often used in prostate cancer treatment).
Xenon-133: A medical diagnosis tool, especially for scanning lungs.
High Specific Activity (SA) Cobalt-60: Primarily used in cancer treatment applications.
Iridium-192: Used as intense source of radiation for industrial imaging, including radiography and weld-inspection. Also used in portable units for cancer therapy and radiography.