Marie Curie focused on the isolation of the elements that emitted radiation such as radium and not on the health benefits of radium. However, her discovery led to advancements in the world of medicine and further understanding on matter and energy. Years after her discovery, the atom was further structured by Ernest Rutherford due to her recognition that there are still energy created within the atom itself. Ironically, though she and her husband died out of cancer, the element radium that they discovered paved way to radiotherapy, a process of treating cancer (International Atomic Energy Agency).
Cancer is a disease caused by uncontrolled growth malignant cells that mutates due to external and internal factors such as tobacco, radiation, chemicals, inherited mutations, hormones, and etc. As of the year 2003, it is estimated that 10.5 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer and one out of four patients have died of cancer (American Cancer Society).
This disease has taken the nation by storm and is now competing with heart attack as the leading cause of death in Americans. If it were not for the contributions of Marie Curie, cancer would have remained an untreatable disease and millions of humans would have died because of the disease. Her discovery of radiotherapy has benefited not only the soldiers in the 1st World War wherein she used radiation in curing wounds but the countless patients suffering from cancer in today’s generation through radiotherapy.
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Radiotherapy is a process in which radiation is used to kill cancer cells. Though the element radium is not used today since safer and more powerful sources of radiation are available, her discovery of radioactivity played a pivotal role in curing cancer. Radiotherapy capitalizes on controlled dosage of radiation to kill cancer cells by pointing an X-ray machine to the part infected by the malignant cells (Overgaard). This process in done along with chemotherapy and taking drugs that suppress cancer cells. However, this process also comes with certain risks since radiation can also kill normal cells and may cause side effects. Though this process is generally expensive, it is a price that most are willing to pay just to have another shot at life.
Radium is also used in Brachytherapy, a process that is used to treat prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, cervical cancer, coronary artery disease and other localized cancers. This is a form of radiology wherein a small amount of radioactive substance is implanted near the malignant cells so that the radiation will eventually kill the cancer cells. This process if often used for out patients and is used for over a century in curing cancer without having to resort to surgery (American Brachytherapy Society). Brachytherapy is a cheap way of curing localized cancer and has benefited millions of cancer patients.
Another use of radium is for self-luminous paints for watches, compass, microscopes, dials on aircrafts and other instruments. Since radium emits light on its own, it is very useful in saving energy since there is no need for electricity to light up these buttons (Burke, A & Thurston,J.). At pres time, radium was replaced with safer elements that emit light.
Marie Curie and her contributions to science and medicine where products of her never failing passion for knowledge that persisted even though she was limited to financial and health constraints.
- American Cancer Society. Cancer Fact and Figures 2007. http://www.cancer.org/ Date Retrieved December 7, 2007
- American Brachytherapy Society. About Brachytherapy. http://www.americanbrachytherapy.org. Date retrieved December 7, 2007
- Burke, A & Thurston,J. Evaluation of an Acrylic Coating for self-luminous Paint. National Technical Information Service. 1969
- Condren, L. The Facts about Radiotherapy. http://www.irishhealth.com. Retrieved on December 7, 2007.
- International Atomic Energy Agency. http://www.iaea.org. retrieved on December 7, 2007 .
- Overgaard, J. Radiotherapy and Oncology. Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. 2008.
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