Vacuum technology affects everything from your automobile to your meals. One area where vacuum technology is seeing increasing use is in medicine, notably in cancer treatment.
Vacuum technology plays a supporting role in many of these situations since it is crucial to the production of many types of medical equipment. However, vacuum plays a direct role in radiation treatment; it is an essential aspect of the operation of the medical accelerators that enable radiation therapy.
How Does Radiation Therapy Work?
Radiation therapy is a way to treat cancer by killing cancer cells with beams of solid energy. It is typically accomplished with X-rays, but other forms of energy, such as protons and neutrons, can also be employed. Typically, this energy is delivered as a beam generated by a machine outside the body. As it generates this beam, a medical accelerator is used in this setting.
The high-energy beam is then concentrated on a precise area of the body. Radiation therapy harms cells by destroying their DNA. As both healthy and malignant cells contain this genetic material, both types of cells are harmed by radiation therapy. Consequently, the objective is to eliminate as many malignant cells as feasible while preserving healthy cells.
Medical Accelerators and Energy Beam Types
Radiation treatment uses energy to kill cancer cells, and ensuring as few healthy cells as possible are damaged during the process is crucial. Targeting cancer cells requires both the ability to concentrate the beam and regulate its intensity.
The kind of beam used is also a crucial consideration. While X-rays are still the most popular choice, other beam technologies are gaining ground. Proton therapy is one such method in which a beam of protons is utilized instead of X-rays to treat a patient.
Medical accelerators used for proton treatment tend to be bigger than those used for conventional radiotherapy because the acceleration of protons requires so much power. They often take the form of cyclotrons rather than the linear accelerators used to send out beams of photons or electrons.
The main advantage of a proton beam is that protons do not emit radiation over a certain distance within the body. It is because protons can only go so far within the body before they run out of steam. This relationship allows physicians to exert more control over where the proton beams deliver their energy; consequently, less wholesome tissue is harmed.
Boron neutron capture therapy is another option for beam applications. Radiation treatment with boron-10-containing drugs is a little different. Many of the neutrons from the low-energy laser are absorbed by the boron-10 in the patient's body.
As a result of this absorption, a reaction takes place, and high-energy, short-range charged particles are released. These particles subsequently cause damage to the healthy tissue around the malignant tumor cells. When using this method, only nearby healthy tissue is compromised. These innovative radiation treatment approaches demonstrate the medical community's growing proficiency in targeting and killing cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue.
What Role Does a Vacuum Pump Play in Radiation Therapy?
Medical accelerators rely heavily on vacuum technology since they can't function without a very low atmospheric pressure. Increases in the mean free path of particles in the vacuum pump, such as protons and neutrons, are one consequence of high vacuum conditions.
A beam of protons or neutrons formed at atmospheric pressure would barely reach a few nanometers before being absorbed by molecules of air. However, when the pressure is reduced to 105 mbar or below, the proton and neutron ranges expand dramatically. Because of this, beams may reach the high speeds required for radiation treatment, and the beam can be directed to a specific part of a patient's body as it moves through the accelerator.
Medical accelerator systems need turbomolecular pumps to lower pressure and roughing pumps to prevent oil contamination. Depending on accelerator radiation, pumps with remote electronics may be necessary.
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