What are medical isotopes?
Medical radioisotopes are radioactive isotopes that can be used to treat and diagnose patients. Specific radioisotopes, or variations of elements that naturally decay and release radioactive emissions, have just the right properties that they can be used for medical purposes, such as diagnostic imaging and cancer therapy, without causing harm to the patient.
Every radioactive isotope has a half-life, or the average time it takes for half of any given amount of the material to decay. While some radioactive materials have half-lives of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, many medical isotopes have very short half-lives on a scale of hours.
Many different isotopes have varied uses in medicine depending on their radioactivity levels, half-lives, and decay products. The most commonly used of these medical isotopes, technetium-99m (Tc-99m), is produced through the decay of one isotope in particular: molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), a byproduct of uranium fission.