Radioactive Iodine Therapy For Thyroid Cancer Treatment

Cancer of the thyroid gland needs a multi disciplinary approach; the treatment regimen, by and large, comprises of surgical intervention, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy may be internal or external; i.e. either the radioactive substance is placed within the body, close to the tissue to be killed; or the tissue is exposed by an outside source of radiation. Radioactive iodine, I-131 is a component of internal radiation therapy.

Radioactive iodine therapy is a targeted treatment. It will not influence other cells of the body, because only thyroid cells can take up I-131.

What’s more, the therapy is appropriate only for certain types of carcinomas, such as, papillary and follicular thyroid cancer.

Radioactive iodine treatment may be administered:

  • After a surgical intervention, where the thyroid tumor mass may have been excised and the I-131 is used to exterminate any cancerous cells that may have been left behind
  • To treat metastasis of the thyroid cancer
  • To manage recurrences of thyroid cancer

Radioactive Iodine Treatment For Thyroid Cancer

Radioactive iodine is usually given as a drink or in the form of a capsule. Do not drink / eat for a few hours after being given I-131, so that your body can absorb the iodine better.

You will have to stay in your room until the radiation levels have dropped. A radiation monitor is used to keep an eye on the radioactivity.

You may bring music players, phones or books; however, when they are taken out of the room they be monitored as well. Radioactive iodine therapy is used quite frequently to manage carcinoma of the thyroid gland.

The thyroid absorbs virtually all of the iodine in the blood. When a large dose of I-131 is taken into the body, it destroys the thyroid gland and thyroid cancer cells that take up iodine, without having an effect on the rest of the body.

Radioactive iodine improves the survival rate of people diagnosed with follicular or papillary thyroid cancer. However, the benefits of the treatment are less effective for those having small malignancies of the thyroid gland. Radioactive iodine cannot be used to treat medullary and anaplastic thyroid cancer, since; these do not take up iodine.

Precautions For Radioactive Iodine Treatment

Before the radioactive iodine therapy, you will be administered recombinant human TSH for some weeks. This helps the thyroid cancer cells to absorb radioactive iodine. Your doctor may ask you to stop taking your thyroid hormone medicines as well. I-131 works optimally when TSH levels are high. TSH levels in your blood begin to elevate as soon as you stop taking thyroid hormone medications.

You eat a low iodine diet for two weeks prior to the radioactive iodine therapy. Do not consume:

  • Iodized table salt.
  • Fish and seafood.
  • Cough medications.
  • Vitamin supplements containing iodine.
  • Eggs, milk and cheese.

Foods having additive E127 must not be had too; thus do not eat, salami, glazed cherries, tinned strawberries and pink pastries.