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    Gold to Ease Pain. Ranking third among the isotopes used in the treatment of patients is radioactive gold. In a few U.S. medical centers, the gold is injected directly into the tumor mass in certain cases of cancer of the cervix or of the prostate gland. This work is still in its infancy; in the standard medical summary, "the results are encouraging but inconclusive." Far more widespread is the use of radiogold, with no thought of cure but _ simply to ease the pain and inconvenience of excess fluid formation in cancers of the chest or abdominal cavity.

    A typical case is that of Mrs. H., a storekeeper's wife, who was bloated and miserable when she first went to the women's clinic of Manhattan's Memorial Hospital. She had had an ovarian cancer removed, but not soon enough: its colonies were spread around the lining of her abdominal cavity, causing it to fill rapidly with fluid. She had constant pain, cramps and constipation; she could not keep house, and had to be "tapped" regularly.

    It got so the doctors had to drain off almost four quarts of fluid every ten days.

    One day the doctors at Memorial drained off the fluid as usual, then injected ten cubic centimeters (two-thirds of a tablespoon) of purplish liquid containing 20 trillion particles of gold. It took a while for the doubly precious metal to work, and Mrs. H. soon had to be tapped again. But by then the radioactive gold had bombarded the cancer cells and checked their multiplication. For the first time in a year, Mrs. H. could enjoy a full meal.

    She has had to be tapped only once in the last six months. Mrs. H. is up & around, taking care of her teen-age children. She is not cured, and she knows it. But life is infinitely easier.

    Several other radioisotopes offer marked advantages in treating some of the less dramatic (and usually nonfatal) forms of cancer. Example: blotting paper soaks up a solution containing phosphorus-32; the paper can then be cut to the exact shape of a skin cancer and held in place with adhesive tape. In a few days the cancer is arrested. Strontium-go, on the end of a probe, has been found to be even better than phosphorus-32 for treating malignant growths of the eye.

    Atoms for Diagnosis. In the long run, atomic medicine may prove to be more important as a tool kit to help doctors in diagnosis than as a shelf of cures. Already, radio-sodium is extremely valuable as a treatment gauge in certain types of kidney disease of which children are most often the victims. It is all very well to keep these little patients, with their puffy eyes, on a diet from which salt is rigorously excluded. But doctors need to be sure that they are not going too far: if the system is really salt-starved (and hence, sodium-starved), the patient may die of kidney failure. With a tiny injection of radio-sodium, which mixes with the rest of the sodium in the body so that the dilution can be computed with the aid of a Geiger counter, doctors can tell when the danger point is approaching. Every day a dozen happy children banging around the playroom of the hospital at Long Island's Brookhaven Laboratory give testimony to the success of this technique.

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