In 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Incredible Hulk, an initially gray monstrous being that resembled the Frankenstein monster or the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde. After a few issues, the horror theme would have been put aside, the giant becoming more and more irascible and uncontrollable, acquiring the typical jade green color, and he would have been able to transform himself back into his harmless human alter ego only in moments of calm. Who is hiding under the green muscles of the Incredible Hulk?
The nuclear physicist Bruce Banner, while in the New Mexico desert to carry out an experimental atomic test with the support (typical during those years) of the American army, does not realize that a boy named Rick Jones has introduced himself in the experiment area due to a stupid bet between friends. Dr. Banner manages to save the boy by pushing him to cover but not himself, resulting in being hit by the gamma radiation emitted by the nuclear explosion.
But let’s see in the real world what Gamma rays are, how dangerous or not they can be, how they are used in hospital environments and how they are employed by the medical physics specialist.
Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation that comes from the nucleus of radioactive atoms.
They were discovered in 1900 by the French physical chemist Villard while studying Radium salts, an element discovered two years earlier by the Curies.
The radiobiological implications or the effects that these radiations, discovered in those years, had on our body were immediately studied to be applied in the medical field.
The Radium sources, which were very expensive, were soon replaced by the Cesium and then by Cobalt ones and in the mid-1900s the modern radiotherapy was already established.
A further evolution occurred with the linear accelerators of photonic beams, which have even higher energy. However even today gamma rays are used in targeted treatments such as the intracranial stereotaxic radiotherapy ones.
The Medical Physicists in Radiotherapy deal with both the approval and control of the beams that are used for therapies, but, along with the radiotherapist, they also deal with designing patient care plans and with the control of the amount absorbed both by tumour lesions where the beam is directed (which are the real target) and by the surrounding healthy tissues which, on the other hand, should not receive so much amount.