Exhibition shows life-saving effect of radiology in cancer treatment

December 16 / 189

When Swedish doctor Tage Sjögren became the first person to cure a patient’s skin cancer using x-ray treatment in 1899, he lamented that there was no safe method to accurately measure radiation doses, having to rely instead on intuition and previous experience.

More than a century later, a dosimeter, which measures radiation levels, and an iteration of the x-ray machine that Sjögren used in his work, are part of an exhibition cataloguing the progress of radiology equipment in treating cancer during the 20th century. The exhibition is on display at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre’s (VCCC) new headquarters in the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. 

The radiology collection was compiled by the University’s Medical History Museum (MHM) after being largely hidden from public view.

Among the exhibits are an Airmec Radiation Monitor from the 1960s that measured low dose radiation in treatment areas, and a storage vessel from the same decade that transported radium to Peter Mac. 

Documents like the Cancer ACT Bill, passed by the Victorian Parliament in 1949 to form a central cancer institute, and the aims of the newly formed Peter Mac institute are also on display.

According to the MHM’s senior curator Jacqueline Healy, additional research into the origins of the collection will be undertaken to further explore and understand their significance, including interviews with retired Peter Mac employees.

This project is supported by the Melbourne Engagement Grants. Applications for the 2017 round are now open and will close on 8 March. To find out how you can apply for a grant, click here.

Story by Eisha Gupta.

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