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The Atom May Save Your Life
July 8, 1950 Saturday Evening Post

The Saturday Evening Post
July 8, 1950Saturday Evening Post, July 8, 1950 Cover - Airplanes and Rockets

[Table of Contents]  These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the The Saturday Evening Post magazine. Here is a list of the The Saturday Evening Post articles I have already posted. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

Occasionally I buy copies of old magazines on eBay in order to get a feel for what the state of the world was back when it was published. The Saturday Evening Post has been a good source for that, and I have reprinted a few articles and advertisements from the era. This particular edition, July 8, 1950, had among other interesting articles one titled, "The Atom May Save Your Life." It is the beginning of nuclear medicine for treating cancers and other maladies.

Here is the heartening story of what atomic energy means to the victims of cancer, brain tumor, hyperthyroidism, even leukemia. Already doctors call it their best new tool since the microscope.

The Atom May Save Your Life, p1 - RF CafeBy Steven M. Spencer

Rather than electronically scanning and running an OCR (optical character recognition) program on all the pages, I have just posted the scanned them and you can click on the pages to get a version large enough to read. A few of the first paragraphs have been reproduced in text below.

The Atom May Save Your Life, p2 - RF Cafe


The doctors had searched without success for the brain tumor they were sure was causing the patients severe headache, his nausea, his blurred vision and his staggering gait. The surface of the cerebellum, the region indicated by the symptoms, appeared perfectly normal. Nor has X-rays revealed the tumor's whereabouts. So with great reluctance, the surgeon sewed up the skull and scalp, wrote "brain tumor not verified" on the chart, and sent the man home.

But the symptoms persisted, became worse, and the patient, a forty-year-old stonemason whom we shall call John Cooper, was brought back to the Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, for a second try. This time the medical men enlisted the help of atomic energy. They injected into Mr. Cooper's veins a phosphate solution containing radioactive atoms of phosphorous. Then, after waiting a day, they re-exposed the brain and began to "prospect" for the hidden tumor with a special, needle-thin Geiger counter, wired to an electronic totaling machine. Brain tumor has a special affinity for phosphorous and collects it in greater concentration than does surrounding normal tissue. therefore, if a growth did lie buried in John Cooper's brain, its accumulated cluster of radioactive phosphorous atoms would signal its whereabouts as the searching Geiger probe came near. The lighted figures on the face of the atomic scoreboard would tell the story.

The Atom May Save Your Life, p3 - RF CafeGently the surgeons pushed the slender" antenna" of the counter into the whitish-gray brain tissue, pausing at every centimeter of depth to watch the count. A girl technician stood by the operating table, turning doails and jotting figures down in a notebook. The lights blinked on and off at a slow, unexciting rate. "One centimeter ... 250. Two centimeters ... 126. Three ... 109."

The doctor, probing first the right lobe of the cerebellum and then the left, shook his head in discouragement. The counts showed only a normal pickup of phosphorous. "Certainly no signs of a tumor here," he said.

Then he moved the needle to the narrow central lobe, a region known as the vermis. Suddenly, as the tip sank to a depth of two centimeters, the lights began to flicker furiously. The count rose to 1050, then to 1185. At another position in the same lobe it soared to 3097 in a twelve-second period.

"By gosh," the surgeon exclaimed. "I think we've hit it." He tried from another angle and again got a radioactivity count thirty times that from the normal brain tissue.

"We can't be wrong," he said. This must be the tumor. And now that we know where it is, we ought to be able to get it out."

It was a tumor and they did get it out, making use of the probe and the atomic counting machine to guide their scalpels and the carved the hidden growth away from the surrounding healthy tissue. On a microscopic examination it proved to be of a highly malignant type, one which would almost certainly have meant death had it not been removed...



Posted July 29, 2021


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    Kirt Blattenberger,


RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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