There are many uses of radiation in medicine. The most well known is using x rays to see whether bones are broken. The broad area of x-ray use is called radiology. Within radiology, we find more specialized areas like mammography, computerized tomography (CT), and nuclear medicine (the specialty where radioactive material is usually injected into the patient). Another area of x-ray use is called cardiology—where special x-ray pictures are taken of the heart.
There are additional areas in medicine using radiation or radioactive material. These are for treatment of disease or cancer and are commonly called therapy. A subspecialty in nuclear medicine is nuclear medicine therapy. A common example of nuclear medicine therapy is the use of radioactive iodine to treat thyroid problems, including thyroid cancer. A subspecialty of oncology (the study and treatment of cancer) is radiation oncology. As the name suggests, this area of oncology focuses on the use of radiation to treat cancer.
We’re going to take a short look at each of these with some common examples. Something to keep in mind is that there is no limit on the number of doctor-prescribed medical exams involving radiation that a person can have. Medical exams involving radiation are considered beneficial to the individual. This is where you can take an active role. It is important that you know what the exam is, what it is for, and how the results will be important to what is needed for you medically.