The history of nuclear medicine begins around 1938, when radioactive iodine was first used to diagnose thyroid diseases. Four years later, the introduction of iodine-131 provided the first therapeutic option.
Much has changed in nuclear medicine since those days, but one thing has remained the same: thyroid diagnostics and therapy still occupy a lot of time in nuclear medicine today.
In addition, specialists in nuclear medicine also work in the field of tumor diagnostics and treatment, in vascular and cardiac diagnostics as well as in the imaging of bone and dementia diseases. Due to this broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities, nuclear medicine is a widely interlinked specialist field with a high degree of interdisciplinarity.
Nowadays, specialists in nuclear medicine use radioisotopes to specifically combat cancer cells in the body. Depending on the use, these radiopharmaceuticals are injected or administered via infusions and then usually target the cancer cells or areas of bone metastases, for example. The radioisotopes used are usually short-radiating, which means that they are only radioactive in a very small space and thus damage cancer cells, but have a less strong effect on healthy body cells located further away.
In some cases, radiological treatment methods from nuclear medicine are therefore more target-oriented than, for example, classical chemotherapy with its systemically administered cytostatics. Less harmful effects of radiopharmaceuticals on healthy body cells also result in fewer side effects in nuclear medicine, which makes the therapy more tolerable for the patients and maintains the quality of life at a certain level despite the life-threatening disease.
Another innovative field of application for nuclear medicine is the three-dimensional imaging using positron emission tomography (PET) or magnetic resonance or computed tomography (MRT + CT). Depending on the indication, the entire human body can be displayed "slice by slice". Special radio tracers make it possible to "color" certain structures radiologically due to their special metabolic situations and thus make them even more visible. The images are of high-resolution and allow even the smallest changes to emerge.
Especially in the diagnosis of vascular diseases, tumors and dementias, these new methods of nuclear medicine offer great advantages. However, these methods are also considerably more expensive than traditional imaging methods such as X-rays. Tomographs are therefore usually found in specialised radio clinics or treatment centres.
In order to be allowed to work as a specialist in nuclear medicine after studying medicine in Germany, a five-year specialist course in nuclear medicine is required. This is concluded at the end with the specialist examination. In addition, the regulations for further training in nuclear medicine stipulate a certain number of nuclear medicine examinations and treatments in order to be allowed to hold the title of specialist in nuclear medicine. A qualification in the field of radiation protection is also necessary to be allowed to practice nuclear medicine.
- Berufsverband Deutscher Nuklearmediziner e. V.