Tag Archives: radioactivity

CNA2016

Radioactivity Fighting Cancer

Brachytherapy, or internal radiation, is proving successful in treating certain tumors.

Cancer is very complex. Curing patients without causing side effects means that the treatments must be very targeted.

BrachytherapyMen“Not all cancers are the same,” according to Dr. Michael Milosevic, a radiation oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto. “Cancer is not one diagnosis. Each individual cancer is different.”

For patients diagnosed with cancer, surgery, radiation treatment and drug treatment (chemotherapy) are frequently used. External radiation, a beam targeted to a tumor that travels to the tumor from outside of the patient’s body comprises 80-90% of radiation therapies.

Brachytherapy, on the other hand, involves inserting the radiation into the center of the tumor and irradiating the cancer cells from the inside out.  The treatment has proven successful in fighting prostate and cervical cancers.

“With brachytherapy, you can kill the cancer but spare the normal surrounding areas,” says Milosevic. “The likelihood of curing the cancer goes way up and the side effects way down.”

There are two methods of using Brachytherapy-temporary and permanent implants

Temporary implants use special catheters inserted into the tumor. They connect to a machine to deliver the radiation treatments. A temporary implant is a day procedure. The radiation is delivered over a very short period of time, usually a few minutes, and then the catheters are removed.

BrachytherapyWomenPermanent implants directly insert small radioactive “seeds,” each about the size of a grain of rice, into the tumor. In the case of prostate cancer treatment, about 100 seeds are placed into the prostate gland, usually when the patient is asleep.  The seeds remain in the prostate gland for the remainder of the patient’s life and give off a continuous flow of radiation that is highest immediately after insertion and declines to zero over a few months.

The uses for brachytherapy continue to develop. It has proven useful in treating some breast, head and neck cancers. Perhaps one of the biggest developments, as Dr. Milosevic points out, is the shift to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre  is home to three MRI units that help to deliver brachytherapy.

“With Brachytherapy you put the radiation in the center of the tumor so you can kill the cancer but spare the normal surrounding areas. The likelihood of curing goes way up and side effects go down.”

Nuclear Safety

Radioactive Packaging Put to the Test, Passes with Flying Colours

By Romeo St-Martin
Digital Media Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

The recent incident at the port of Halifax is a real-life example of the high level of safety involved in the packaging and transport of nuclear substances in Canada and around the world.

On Thursday, four steel cylinders encased in concrete containing uranium hexafluoride fell about six metres from inside a container at the Fairview Container Terminal at the port, landing in a contained area of a ship.

URENCO has said the cylinders came from its enrichment facility in the United Kingdom. The shipment was bound for the U.S.

Fire and port officials evacuated the terminal and it remained closed until radiation experts confirmed there was no leak of radiation the following day.

Halifax Fire and Emergency Executive Fire Officer Phil McNulty was quoted in a Canadian Press story as saying the containers are extremely durable.

“The safety redundancies built in for the transportation of nuclear materials are unbelievable,” he said.

“If this wasn’t done properly, we wouldn’t be singing the song we’re singing now.”

Every day, Canadians working in nuclear ship thousands of packages of radioactive material, many of them across the world. In five decades, there has been no transportation incident with significant radiological damage to people or the environment.

According to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, packages requiring certification have to undergo stringent testing. Testing must simulate both normal and accident conditions of transport. The tests can include free-drop testing, puncture testing, thermal testing, and aircraft accident simulations.

The following video illustrates drop testing in Germany.

Testing methods in Canada are very similar, if not identical, to methods used by other international regulatory bodies.