Nuclear is still a frightening specter for many people. Fear of the destructive power of making people phobic.
However, who would have thought if used in small doses, nuclear could actually be a medical material that is useful for curing various internal diseases, including cancer. In Indonesia, there are 15 hospitals that use nuclear medicine as one of its services.
“Nuclear medicine uses radioactive material for diagnostic, therapeutic and research purposes,” said Husein S Kartamihardja, Professor of Nuclear Medicine at Padjajaran University (Unpad) Bandung, at a press conference of the National Radiation Safety Coordination Meeting on Nuclear Medicine Facilities in Yogyakarta, Tuesday, 28 August 2018.
He revealed the peculiarities of nuclear medicine are more specific. That is, the diagnosis can be done at the initial level, namely functional and molecular, so the detection of the disease can be earlier and treatment better.
Treatment by utilizing radioactive ingredients also puts forward personalized medicine.
“The same disease, the same diagnosis, the same treatment, it is not necessarily the same result because it must pay attention to people,” he said.
Husein explained how radioactivity works directly to the target cell or point that must be treated, as well as the treatment. Radioactive use is usually injected directly into the body and channeled to the target point through blood.
Overseas, nuclear medicine has developed. A number of therapies are carried out with radioactive, among others, special therapies for cancer, such as prostate cancer, liver, lymph nodes, and endocrine tumors.
Nuclear medicine in Indonesia is widely used for the treatment of thyroid or thyroid cancer. In Bandung, nuclear is being developed for the treatment of prostate cancer.
According to Husein, radiation exposure with radioactive for treatment is not as much as in radiology.
“If asked about nuclear danger or not, the same as saying dangerous water or not, on a small scale nuclear is useful,” said Husein.
Husein explained that the development of nuclear medicine in Indonesia is not very good. There are only 42 nuclear specialist doctors in Indonesia.
“Compare that with a population of hundreds of millions,” he said.
In addition, the obstacles often encountered by nuclear medicine users include, among others, the implementation of licensing services for the use of nuclear power electronically, technological developments, and readiness of higher education.
Patients who seek treatment with radioactivity can also use BPJS, so medical expenses are not expensive. But there are some cases that hospitals have to pay more because radioactive is more expensive.
“Most private hospitals do not open radioactive services because they are detrimental to business, and limited medical services also hinder treatment,” Husein said.
He gave an example, in Bandung there is a thyroid patient must be on a waiting list for 18 months for nuclear treatment.
“Imagine people having cancer have to wait 18 months for treatment, even though thyroid cancer has a relatively long survival rate,” he said.
Researcher of the Yogyakarta National Nuclear Energy Agency, Yohanes Sardjono is researching treatment using Boron Neutron Cancer Therapy (BNCT). The latest cancer therapy technology has the nature of cell targeting, so that only cancer cells die and the effect to healthy cells is almost non-existent.
“The accuracy is 95 percent,” he said.
BNCT will be launched in 2020 to 2022 and procurement of neutrons does not need to use nuclear reactors, but it is enough with an accelerator that functions to accelerate particles.
He hopes the government will pay attention and invest in health projects that benefit all of these people. He added that BNCT had been implemented in Japan and Europe since decades ago.