Summary of Mini Particle Accelerators Make Cancer Treatment Safer for Everyone

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Science writer Sophia Chen provides a straightforward explanation of how radiation therapy machines work and why the new linear accelerators (linacs) are safer and better than the old type that uses radioactive material. She shares some disturbing stories about radiation accidents that happened when old machines ended up in the junkyard, explains why developing nations need new machines adapted for their environments and identifies who is helping to achieve that goal. getAbstract recommends Chen’s analysis to anyone with an interest in health care in developing nations.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How modern linear accelerator (linac) radiotherapy machines differ from older isotopic machines,
  • Why linac machines are better and
  • Why developing nations aren’t replacing isotopic machines with linacs yet.

About the Author

Sophia Chen is a science writer and “lapsed physicist.” She writes for Wired, New Scientist, and other publications.



Until the late 1970s, all American hospitals used isotopic teletherapy machines to give radiation to cancer patients. The instrument works by using radioactive materials to produce X-rays, which doctors then aim at patients’ tumors. Then came more advanced linear accelerator (linac) machines that generate X-rays through particle acceleration. The linac is superior because the resulting X-ray is easier to control.

Linacs quickly became the machine of choice in the United States. Many developing nations continue to use the isotopic machines through lack...

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