The recent nuclear crisis suffered by Japan seems to justify the fear-mongering much of the mainstream media engages in regarding the use of nuclear energy. Yet, many experts know that "nuclear imaging is used on tens of thousands of patients every day to take pictures of their hearts, lungs, kidneys, bones, brains and other organs" (Walters, 2009, p. 33) with very little adverse reactions to the procedure(s). Oftentimes the media engages in this type of behavior with the belief that it will encourage additional sales, and they are correct in thinking so. However, such behavior does little to allay the concerns of those individuals who fear nuclear use, no matter if it's deemed safe or not.
The fact that Walters penned the words before the Japan catastrophe is ironic indeed; his purpose was to call attention to the fact that "a dwindling supply of medical isotopes means patients might not get the tests they need" (Walters, p. 34). What is true irony however is the fact that over the last several years "talk of a nuclear renaissance has become increasingly common in popular discussion" (Kidd, 2010, p. 54). The question then remains as to how the nuclear crisis in Japan will affect ongoing medical procedures that employ nuclear technology; will it have long-lasting negative connotations, or is the general public astute enough to understand that there is a difference between the use of nuclear technology to produce energy, and the use of nuclear technology in medical scenarios.
The brothers whom were instrumental in developing two profound uses for nuclear, understood that the technology could be life-saving and life-taking at the same time.
John and Ernest Lawrence were both instrumental in the advancement of nuclear technology; Ernest is credited with the creation of the nuclear bomb that laid waste to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, while his brother John employed the same technology to create life-saving nuclear medicine techniques. According to a biographical news article "while visiting Ernest at Berkeley. John treated leukemic mice with radioactive phosphorus, which Ernest had produced in his cyclotron" (Wilson, 2006, p. 67)
Yet, both men considered the correct use of nuclear technology as being very safe; Ernest Lawrence was even "the supposedly apolitical scientist (who) issued a joint statement with Edward Teller the day before the 1956 election that "radioactivity produced by testing is insignificant." (Wilson, 2006, p. 68). However, the general public are much more likely to be riveted by scenes of nuclear devastation than they are scenes of nuclear healing.
This study will seek to determine whether the general public views the use of nuclear medicine as a specific danger, or if the general perception is that no harm is likely from radiation when undergoing nuclear medical tests. The purpose behind the study is to provide further documentation and data that will assist in defining the scope of the issue and whether the issue is being adequately addressed or needs additional study.
The importance of the study can be linked to the fact that (as stated above) thousands of individuals submit their bodies to medical techniques that employ nuclear technology each and every day around the world, and that situation will only grow throughout the future as more and more technology becomes available in further reaches around the globe.
One recent study conducted on members of the European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM) and the European Society of Radiology (ESR) discerned that "the majority of the members of both societies believe that the proportion of PET/CT conducted as a full diagnostic CT with contrast enhancement will increase over time" (Cuocolo, Breatnach, 2010, p. 163), and diagnostic CT use is not the only area where nuclear medicine is currently employed.
Nuclear medicine is not only used for during PET/CT procedures it is also used as a tool by psychiatrists to learn about the biological aspects of their patient's actions. A recent study showed that "brain SPECT helps us gain a deeper understanding of the biological underpinnings of our patient's problems and then helps us formulate the biological part of our patient's treatment plans" (Amen, 2009, p. 22).
Nuclear technology is also used in radioimmunotherapy (RIT). A study published in the 2009 supplement to the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging showed that while radiopharmaceutical chemistry is still rapidly developing "RIT can induce a high percentage of remissions, some of which are of impressive duration, in indolent and transformed B-cell lymphoma" (Radioimmunotherapy, 2009, p. 152).
Additional areas for the use of nuclear medicine technology are being tested and will certainly benefit from the data that is supplied with this study as well as with other similar studies. Other study benefits of almost equal importance include the fact that public perception can be changed if it is found to be of a negative nature. This can be accomplished through providing additional positive information to the public regarding safe procedures and implementations concerning nuclear medical scenarios.
As an example, it is a well-known fact (in the medical industry) that nuclear medical equipment is constantly tested beginning even before it first arrives at the medical facility. Acceptance of the equipment is facilitated by acceptance testing, A recent article extolled the virtues of acceptance tests by stating they "are performed to verify that the instrument performs according to its specifications" (Sokole, Plachinska, Britten, 2010, p. 672).
Additional studies have determined that once the machine has been accepted it will need to continue to be tested for safety and performance "with simple quality control procedures that are sensitive to changes in performance" (Busemann-Sokole, Plachinska, Britten, Lyra, Tindale, Klett, 2010, p. 663).
One of the questions this study will seek to determine is whether the public has any idea at all how much testing is actually performed on the equipment before, during and after its use, and whether the perception is positive or negative in scope. This is especially important to determine since the scope of influence and use of nuclear technology continues to grow each and every day. An example of that growth is in European countries that until just recently had not employed nuclear medical procedures due to a number of factors, primarily accessibility to the machines themselves. However, that scenario is rapidly changing. One report shows that "the integration of nuclear medicine in central and eastern European countries with that in the rest of Europe faces many economic, technical and psychological hurdles, although some countries (eg Slovenia) have largely overcome these difficulties" (Lass, 2005, p. B12).
This study may not look at the economic or technical aspects that these countries are facing, but certainly it will provide a bird's eye view of the psychological hurdles that nuclear medicine faces in some arenas.
Many people know and understand that "prompt airway management after chemical, biological radiation or nuclear (CBRN) incidents is crucial for patient survival" (Castle, 2010, p. 27) but how many members of the general public understand that such scenarios do not normally take place in their local doctor's office. That question will likely be answered by this study.
Advantages, Limitations, Suitability
The research design used in the proposed study will be mixed; both quantitative and qualitative methods will be employed. The quantitative methodology allows for hard numbers to be extracted from the data and analyzed as to their importance. This can be accomplished by using instruments such as a LIkert Scale that allows individuals to quantify their responses from 1 -- 5, with 1 being the least likely to agree and five being the most likely to agree. The qualitative methodology allows the chance for participants to express their thoughts, ideals, perceptions, values and beliefs in verbal form. Qualitative data is gathered through the use of one-on-one interviews and focus groups. The researcher(s) normally use open-ended questions while observing the participants without actually taking an active participatory role.
The advantage of a mixed research design is that it provides two forms of data, one that deals with hard numbers that are difficult to refute, the other that deals with participant's thoughts and perceptions. Both are equally effective approaches, and combined offer the best of both methodologies.
The mixed research design is suitable for this type of study, although some of the limits to employing the mixed research design is the time and cost necessary to implement this type of study.
In a qualitative study, there will be certain researcher bias that must be considered. While the researcher is conducting focus groups or one-on-one interviews, he/she will be tracking negative and positive remarks and perceptions through taking notes. The bias is how the negativity is determined. Does the participant mean to be negative with certain responses or positive? That is where the question of researcher bias comes in. Researchers should always consider their own particular bias when conducting evaluations of participant behaviors and thoughts.
The study will seek to determine public perception through the gathering of both quantitative and qualitative data. Analyzing that data should present patterns, and groupings that allow for conclusions…