This essay is about how a radioisotope (Cobalt 60) is used in radiotherapy to help cure or lessen the effects of cancer cells in a patient. I will also be writing about how science was applied to solve this problem and why Cobalt 60 is the best medical option.
Cancer starts progressing usually when a person’s cells start multiplying rapidly without stopping which can lead to death. An average person’s cells grow and divide to form new cells to even out the cell death to the birth ratio for the body. When cells have lived through their lifespan (around 1-3 weeks) or have been damaged they normally die and new cells are created by the blood marrow in our bones to replace them. When cancer develops this processed is changed and affects the patient in a multitude of ways. During the patient’s lifetime the cancer cells will continue to become abnormal and old or damaged cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed. These extra cells can divide without stopping and if not stopped will cause solid masses in the body known as tumors.
Radiotherapy uses extremely high concentration of energy rays to treat cancer. Radiotherapy works both internally and externally. External radiotherapy works by using a machine that can produce high energy rays which can affect a large area of the body. Internal radiotherapy works by having the piece(s) of radioactive materials inside the body. Radiotherapy works by destroying cancer cells in the area that’s being treated. Normal cells can be damaged by radiotherapy which is why radiotherapy is hard to use. Cancer cells cannot repair themselves after radiotherapy, but normal cells usually can. Cobalt 60 is a radioactive form of cobalt and is created by exposing cobalt to the radiations of a nuclear reactor. Cobalt 60 can also be used as a makeshift x-ray to see any foreign objects contained in a human body. The advantages of cobalt-60 over radium lie in lower cost, more homogeneous gamma radiation and it is not as radioactive as other isotopes which allows it to be used for medical purposes, It can be moved with ease as its radioactivity is not large enough to harm people and its ability to be changed shape wise into any form before irradiation to fit special requirements is why it is extremely important. Cobalt 60 is introduced into radiotherapy because it is the radioisotope used in the high energy rays as, gamma rays. Cobalt 60 is mostly used in external radiotherapy and was used instead of linear accelerators.
Since using Cobalt 60 is more efficient and needs reduced maintenance, running costs and downtime when compared with linear accelerators which is why they are the prime choice when cancer patients are being treated.
The major problem with Cobalt 60 is the rate at which it decays, reducing the output results in increased treatment times which in turn will effectively reduce the amount of patient output. The source needs to be replaced every 5-7 years and is becoming more and more expensive and is also hard to get. Another major problem is the radioactive waste that is left behind when using Cobalt 60 which our current technology there is no way we can effectively contain that much amount of waste.
To conclude Cobalt 60 is the prime choice when we are trying to help cancer patients but it does come with certain setbacks that could cause harm to other people as well. While Cobalt 60 might be a lot easier t use it is much harder to maintain with our current knowledge of waste management.