Ionising Radiation and Its Physical and Chemical Effects on Living Tissue

  • Jeremy C. Ganz


Some knowledge of the effects of ionising radiation on living tissue is necessary, for those who wish to understand the nature of any treatment using radiation and who also wish to inform patients about such treatment. Correct information is particularly important in this regard, because of the associations that the word radiation has for most people. Most powerful therapeutic methods arouse concern or anxiety amongst those who will be subjected to them. However, medicine or the surgeon’s knife may also be viewed with some degree of relief. This is not the case for treatment involving ionising radiation There are several reasons for this. Firstly, everyone has seen films of the agonising effects of radiation fall-out from nuclear bombs. Secondly, there is something particularly horrid about the idea of an invisible entity, creeping into the body, producing no apparent initial effect but followed by untold harm, at a later date. The unpleasantness is compounded by the nature of the harm that may develop: in that sterility and cancer are amongst the commonest consequences of exposure to excess irradiation. Thirdly, the concept of radiotherapy is indissolubly linked in the public mind with cancer. This last provides particular difficulties for the patient with an intracranial tumour, where radiation treatment may be advisable because of a tumour’s inaccessibility, rather than its malignancy.


Pair Production Ionise Radiation Electromagnetic Radiation Bragg Peak Linear Energy Transfer 
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Suggested Further Reading

  1. 1.
    Larsson B, Lidén K, Sarby B (1974) Irradiation of small structures through the intact skull. Acta Radiol 13: 512 - 534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Perez CA (1977) Principles of radiation therapy. In: Horton J, Hill GJ (eds) Clinical oncology. WB Saunders Co., Philadelphia, pp 126 - 141Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sampiere VA (1980) Radiation measures and dosimetric practices. In: Fletcher GH (ed) Textbook of radiotherapy. Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia, pp 1 - 40Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Withers HR, Peters LJ (1980) Biological aspects of radiation therapy. In: Fletcher GH (ed) Textbook of radiotherapy. Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia, pp 103 - 180Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy C. Ganz
    • 1
  1. 1.Haukeland HospitalBergenNorway

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