Cancer patients in some parts of China could be suffering from inappropriate treatment due to a shortage of properly trained medical physicists, said an expert Tuesday.
Medical physics technicians in many hospitals were inadequately trained because few medical schools taught the subject and the post of "physicist in medicine" was not officially recognized in hospitals, Zhao Nanming, director of the sub-branch of medical physics of the China Physics Society, told a seminar in Beijing.
"Without proper education and training, they may not be able to take full advantage of the devices or work out appropriate therapy for patients," Zhao said.
Medical physicists played an important role in planning and implementing patient treatment programs, such as radiation therapy for cancer patients. They developed, tested and evaluated specialist equipment.
"Some patients do not receive appropriate treatment and even suffer from unnecessary radiation exposure," said Zhao.
In China, the job was mostly done by college physics graduates who received two years of medical training.
There were about 10 million Chinese to every eight specialists on average, compared with 130 in many Western countries, said Zhao.
Experts suggested the Chinese health authorities incorporate the post of physicist in medicine at hospitals and universities offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
According to China's Ministry of Health, cancer has become the top killer in China. Last year, about three million Chinese died of cancer.
The experts also called for the country to pay more attention to medical physics.
"China has spent lots of money importing medical devices from abroad, but few resources in research and development in this field," said Fang Shouxian, academician of the Chinese Academy of Science and expert on proton radiation therapy on cancers.
Several leading Chinese universities, such as Peking University and Tshinghua University have been trying out postgraduate medical physics programs.