Radiation Medicine in Cancer: Improving Patient Care


Despite rapid technological advances in treatment, cancer still remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. More than 60% of the world’s total new annual cases occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. These regions account for 70% of the world’s cancer deaths.


The side event on ‘Radiation Medicine in Cancer: Improving Patient Care,’ held yesterday during the 59th IAEA General Conference, demonstrated the importance of radiation medicine in the modern management of cancer patients. It also highlighted the various IAEA activities that increase awareness of cancer, and promote and develop radiation medicine in Member States.



Minister of Health of Lesotho Molotsi Monyamane explains the importance of having efficient cancer care. (Photo: J.C Castillo)


“Cancer affects everyone — regardless of age, gender, or walks of life — and represents a tremendous burden on patients, families and societies,” said May Abdel-Wahab, Director of IAEA’s Division of Human Health. A key component of effective cancer treatment is the close collaboration and communication between medical experts during different stages of cancer diagnosis and treatment, for instance through multidisciplinary tumor boards, she said. The IAEA is therefore taking a holistic approach to its support, working with radiation oncologists, radiologists, medical physicists and other specialists.


Teaming up for effective treatment


Radiation medicine and the technologies developed to deal with diseases such as cancer are rapidly evolving and vastly improving our understanding of the human body’s processes and functions. “Modern cancer management using highly sophisticated and expensive medical technologies requires the approach of an effective multidisciplinary team of medical professionals,” said Diana Paez, Head of the Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging Section at the IAEA.


“The planned care in all aspects, from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up assessment, can only be achieved if there is a well-coordinated team in place,” said Siroos Mirzaei, Head of the Nuclear Medicine Department at the Wilhelminenspital hospital in Vienna.


Delegates had the opportunity to observe the process undertaken to address optimal patient management through the presentation and analysis of a real clinical case of a patient with rectal cancer. The demonstration provided a step-by-step walk-through of how medical professionals including oncologists, radiologists, nuclear medicine physicians, medical physicists, surgeons and nutrition specialists closely interact during the different stages of diagnosis and treatment, to provide the best possible care for their patient.


Access to care


Speaking about the health challenges facing his country of 1.9 million people, Molotsi Monyamane, Minister of Health of Lesotho, said that “cancer is hitting young children in my country and we have to send our patients to South Africa for treatment, which is very expensive.” In order to establish radiation medicine facilities, the country first needs to set up a regulatory authority, which is scheduled to happen before the end of the year. “After the law is passed, we are planning to establish an oncology centre by 2019. Our aim is to have universal, equitable health care for all,” he said.


Emphasizing the importance of training in radiation medicine and application, Yoshiharu Yonekura, President of Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences said that “radiation medicine has made dramatic advances and proper and precise instructions need to be followed in one of the most sophisticated technology used for cancer diagnosis and treatment — current treatment requires excellent team work as it is a multidisciplinary field.” Cancer treatment should be accessible to all, he said.