Radiopharmaceuticals and Breast Cancer

Radiopharmaceuticals and Breast Cancer


Radiopharmaceuticals are a group of radioactive compounds that are used in medicine to either diagnose or treat disease.  These compounds contain radioactive materials called radioisotopes. They are given either intravenously (IV), orally, or infused into a body cavity in small amounts for diagnostic purposes, and in larger amounts for therapeutic purposes. Even though these agents have radioactive properties, when given in small amounts for diagnostic testing the dose is considered safe. The radiation a person receives in these dosages may be about the same as, or even less than, the radiation received from an X-ray.  When used as a treatment option, the higher dosing levels do have potential side effects; this is especially true in the treatment of cancer.


Radioisotopes, also known as radioactive isotopes, occur naturally or are produced by bombarding small amounts of particular elements with neutrons (usually emitted from a nuclear reactor).  The technologies that produce radioisotopes are utilized to provide safe food, water, and medical therapeutics, such as radiopharmaceuticals. For a short introductory video on radioisotopes, click here.

Radiopharmaceuticals in Cancer Treatment

Radiopharmaceuticals used to treat cancer are in the form of alpha and beta particles that target the affected areas of tumor growth and metastasis. With this type of treatment, the given radioactive agent is taken up in the cancerous tumor and the radioactive toxins are specifically targeted to destroy the affected tis
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