As my brother-in-law had some health complaints such as palpitations, insomnia, irritability and excessive sweating, he asked me if I would accompany him to the doctor. As the doctor listened to and examined him, he began to suspect that my brother-in-law might be suffering from hyperthyroidism (excessive activity of the thyroid gland). A test showed that there were excessive thyroid hormones in his blood. The doctor then advised radiotherapy for him instead of removal of his thyroid glands.
In this treatment, radioactive iodine atoms are administered to the patient. These are absorbed only by cells of the thyroid gland which are then eliminated by the radiation; as a result of this process, the over-activity of the thyroid gland is prevented. By the divine will of God, the All-Healing, the All-Wise, iodine is absorbed only by thyroid cells but not by any other cell-a truly wonderful phenomenon. This treatment is known as the "bloodless thyroid operation."
After he began this treatment, my brother-in-law visited us one day. As soon as she saw him, my small daughter, who loves her uncle very much, ran to him and sat on his lap where she fell asleep after a very short while. But then she woke up within half an hour and suddenly started vomiting. We later understood that the unseen radiation being emitted from the radioactive substance in her uncle’s body first caused my daughter to fall asleep quickly as if she was anesthetized and later had negative effects on her.
Then, an article in a scientific magazine attracted my attention. The concepts of atomic (or nuclear) energy and radiation are usually perceived negatively because of the atomic bombs which were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima or the accident which occurred at the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl. This negative perception has been caused by the sudden deaths of living species, great destruction and the permanent devastating effects observed in the environment after these events. However, the energy within the atomic nucleus also has many potential advantages for humankind. It is just as possible, with this energy, to illuminate houses and work places everywhere as it is to exterminate all the living beings in a city.
Negative effects of radiation
Radiation energy may directly affect molecules within a cell by causing structural disorders especially in its DNA. It also causes ionization of water molecules within a cell and releases free radicals which are harmful to the cell. Damage to molecules and genetic material within a cell may consequently trigger a process that can cause the death of that cell. Thus, it is strongly advised for pregnant women especially to stay away from sources of radiation and also not to expose the body to frequent radiation even for diagnostic purposes, such as X-rays.
Positive effects of radiation
As we consider its beneficial aspects, we realize that nuclear radiation is just one of the innumerable blessings of God. In the field of medicine, for instance, radiation is used to cure diseases like cancer, a disease which, ironically, it sometimes causes. Blood products and medical equipment may be effectively sterilized by the use of radiation. It is also useful in radiological visualization techniques.
Atomic nuclei with unstable composition (radionuclides), which disintegrate without any external interference, display features of radioactivity. The diffusion of energy-bearing rays α, β, γ as a result of this disintegration is called radioactivity and the energy-bearing rays are called radiation. The radioactive substances which are used for the diagnosis and cure of illnesses are known as radioactive medicines or radiopharmaceuticals. This kind of medicine may be composed of pure radioactive nuclei, or they may be compounds which are radioactivated by synthesizing them with radioactive nuclei.
Compared with other radioactive substances, the radiopharmaceuticals used in radiotherapy must have some specific features in terms of radiation type and energy level. Radiopharmaceuticals should be fully absorbed by diseased organ or tissue to be cured and should be applied in such a way that it disseminates the least possible radiation to the rest of the body (so as not to contaminate the body with radiation). That is, the half-life of the radioactive substance should be such that it maintains the correct level of radiation in the tissues to effect the required cure. God has created radioactive substances which emit pure β-rays so that they are ideal for curative purposes.
Radioactive nuclear therapy is a treatment for diseased human tissue, usually by the intravenous injection of a suitably formulated radioactive composition. In this treatment, the radioactive composition, when diffused within the body, is held more intensely within the diseased organs, and a kind of radiotherapy at cellular level is thus achieved. The most outstanding example of this kind of therapy is radioactive iodine treatment. This therapy is most frequently applied in cases of excess activity of the thyroid gland in patients with thyroid cancer. As iodine is mostly consumed by the thyroid gland in our body, radioactive iodine (I-131 which is the radioisotope of the element iodine) is particularly suitable for this treatment. The thyroid gland’s feature of absorbing and retaining more iodine than other organs, makes it feasible to treat this organ exclusively by this method when it is diseased. Other peptides marked with particular radioactive nuclei are used in the treatment of other types of cancer and success is observed in some cases. Nuclear therapy is also used in treatment of bone cancers and of pain caused by certain joint diseases.
Radiopharmaceuticals in palliative treatment of bone pain from metastases
The spread of cancerous cells from the diseased organ of the body to other organs is called metastasis. Damage and pain originating from osseous (bone) metastases may cause losses in activity and function for the patient. Radiotherapy has long been used particularly in the treatment of limited bone lesions. However, the side effects of radiotherapy are greater since the body areas exposed to X-rays must be increased where there are widespread osseous metastases.
Radiopharmaceutical therapy is useful for patients who have painful metastases throughout multiple osseous zones. In this therapy the patient receives an intravenous injection of suitably formulated radiopharmaceuticals. In this therapy a radioactive substance is used which rapidly leaves the blood circulation system and concentrates within the skeletal system and especially within metastized zones. Radioactive phosphorus has been used for more than thirty years for this purpose.
Radiopharmaceuticals in therapy for joint disease
Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as inflammatory joint rheumatism, is one of the most widely seen (approximately 1–2 %) of connective tissue diseases.
In this disease, medication in some cases can become ineffective in the long run and can even be the cause of serious side effects. Radionuclide synovectomy (or radiosynovectomy), which is used in some advanced cases of this disease, yields results close to those obtainable by surgical intervention. It has the additional advantages of being less costly, not necessitating the patient’s hospitalization following the therapy and being repeatable.
It can be seen that the use of this blessing for either favorable (good) or unfavorable (bad) purposes depends on human choice, as is the case for all other divine blessings. Thus, it should be our top priority to use for humanitarian causes the blessing of radiation, which has been bestowed on us for our benefit, but which can seem as if it is harmful at first sight.
- Al-Bukhari, "Tawhid," 55; Muslim, "Tawba," 14-16, Ibn Maja, "Zuhd," 35.
- Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn 'Uthman al-Dhahabi, Siyar 'Alam al-Nubala’, 25 vols. (Beirut, 1992), 1:150.
- Al-Qushayri, Al-Risala, 133.
- In other words, one should regard Him as an All-Merciful and All-Forgiving Lord, rather than as an All-Punishing One.
- Al-Bukhari, "Tawhid", 15; Muslim, "Tawba," 1; Al-Tirmidhi, "Dawa'at," 132.
- Al-Qushayri, Al-Risala, 134.