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John Karp. Email Address. It permeated their clothes, their papers, peeled their fingers, entered their marrow and slowly burned. He mildly alluded to rheumatism. He stroked her radioactive hair with a radioactive hand. Colorless, shining radium darkened in contact with air. Chemically much like calcium, it could stream like calcium through her brain cells in her later years alone and make memories glow in the dark: illegal schooling, unheated rooms, subsistence on tea and chocolate.
The first attempted x-ray treatment was by Victor Despeignes , a French physician who used them on a patient with stomach cancer. In , he published a paper with the results: a week-long treatment was followed by a diminution of pain and reduction in the size of the tumor, though the case was ultimately fatal. The results were inconclusive, because the patient was concurrently being given other treatments. The first successful treatment was by Schiff, working with Freund, in a case of lupus vulgaris. A year later, in , the two published a report of their success and this provoked further experimentation in x-ray therapies.
The lesion took a common form of a 'butterfly-patch' which appeared on both sides of the face, and Schiff applied the irradiation to one side only, in order to compare the effects. Within a few months, scientific journals were swamped with accounts of the successful treatment of different types of skin tissue malignancies with x-rays.
The nature of the active agent in therapeutic treatment was still unknown, and subject to wide dispute. Freund and Schiff believed it to because of electrical discharge, Nikola Tesla argued they were because of the ozone generated by the x-rays, while others argued that it was the x-rays themselves. Tesla's position was soon refuted, and only the other two theories remained. Studies published in and suggested that the rays varied in penetration according to the degree of vacuum in the tube.
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Niels Finsen , a Faroese-Danish physician, had by that time already pursued interest in the biological effects of light. He published a paper, Om Lysets Indvirkninger paa Huden "On the effects of light on the skin" in Inspired by the discovery that x-rays could have therapeutic effects, he extended his research to examine directed light rays.
In , he published a paper on his findings, Om Anvendelse i Medicinen af koncentrerede kemiske Lysstraaler "The use of concentrated chemical light rays in medicine". Finsen discovered that lupus was amenable to treatment by ultraviolet rays when separated out by a system of quartz crystals, and thereafter created a lamp to sift out the rays. The so-called Finsen lamp became widely used in for phototherapy , and derivatives of it became used when experimenting with other types of radiotherapy. By , it was estimated that fully 50 percent of the cases of lupus were successfully healed by Finsen's methods.
It was still unclear how the x-rays acted on the skin; however, it was generally agreed upon that the area affected was killed and either discharged or absorbed.
By , there were four well established classes of problems that were treated by x-ray, based on a set of five classes initially outlined by Freund: 1. Additionally, x-rays were successfully applied to other appearances of carcinoma , trials were done in treating leukemia , and because of the supposed bactericidal properties, there were suggestions it could be used in diseases such as tuberculosis.
Experiments were also done using x-rays to treat epilepsy , which had previously also experimentally been treated with electrical currents. Because of the excitement over the new treatment, literature about the therapeutic effects of x-rays often exaggerated the propensity to cure different diseases. Reports of the fact that in some cases treatment worsened some of the patients' conditions were ignored in favor of hopeful optimism. Henry G. Piffard referred to these practitioners as "radiomaniacs" and "radiografters". It was found that x-rays were only capable of producing a cure in certain cases of the basal cell type of epithelioma and exceedingly unreliable in malignant cancer, not making it a suitable replacement for surgery.
How We Realized Putting Radium in Everything Was Not the Answer
In many cases of treatment, the cancer recurred after a period of time. X-ray experiments in pulmonary tuberculosis proved useless. Aside from the medical profession losing faith in the ability of x-ray therapy, the public increasingly viewed it as a dangerous type of treatment. This resulted in a period of pessimism about the use of x-rays, which lasted from about to or Soon after the discovery of radium in by Pierre and Marie Curie , there was speculation in whether the radiation could be used for therapy in the same way as that from x-rays.
The physiological effect of radium was first observed in by Otto Walkhoff ,  and later confirmed by what famously known as the "Becquerel burn". In , Henri Becquerel had placed a tube of radium in a waistcoat pocket where it had remained for several hours; a week or two after which there was severe inflammation of his skin underneath where the radium had been kept. Ernest Besnier , a dermatologist, examined the skin and expressed the opinion that it was due to the radium, leading to experiments by Curie which confirmed it. Besnier suggested the use of radium for therapy along the same purposes as x-rays and ultraviolet rays.
Louis in Paris in Further trials of radium therapy began, though at a much slower pace than did those using x-rays because radium was expensive and difficult to obtain. Radium was soon seen as a way to treat disorders that were not affected enough by x-ray treatment because it could be applied in a multitude of ways in which x-rays could not. One method using emanation was through inhalation, where it was mixed with air.
Radium inhalation had been most studied in Germany, where regular inhalation institutes were established, and the goal was to target the lungs. That was done either to treat lung diseases, like tuberculosis, or to be absorbed through the surface of the lung to the blood, where it could circulate through the body. It was claimed that the beneficial effects produced by radium water baths were the result of inhalation of the vapors.
Another method of treatment was to condense the emanation at liquid air temperature on substances such as vasoline, glycerine, and lanoline, to apply externally to the part affected; or on quinine, bismuth, subnitrate, and arsenic, to be consumed or applied internally. Radium emanation was also passed into glass or metal tubes or flat glass-tight applicators and applied in the same way as radium tubes. In other cases was also deposited on metal points or flat surfaces of metal using electrical devices, which had the same level of radioactivity as the parent radium, but lasted a shorter duration.
One way of treatment was to then drive the deposits of radioactive material into tissue using galvanic current. It was also a method of applying radium emanation to a specially designed applicator constructed to suit the needs of the patient, who could later take it home. Dilute solutions of radium salts were also made, meant to be used internally. Patients would be prescribed regular dosages. More rarely, the salts were also suspended in liquids to be injected in subcutaneous treatments, which could be applied locally to affected tissues.
That was considered the most expensive method, because the radium used was irreparably lost.
As with radium emanation, solutions of free radium salts were also placed in tubes; in this case, the tubes were made from platinum. In metal tubes, the radium could be employed in a number of ways: externally; to the interior of the body in places like the mouth, nose, esophagus, rectum and vagina; and into the substance of a tumor through incisions. In , the discoverer of the electron, J. Thomson , wrote a letter to the journal Nature in which he detailed his discovery of the presence of radioactivity in well water. Soon after, others found that the waters in many of the world's most famous health springs were also radioactive.