What is Iodine Radiation for Thyroid Cancer?

Iodine radiation for thyroid cancer is also termed as

radioactive iodine

treatment. This treatment uses the radioactive iodine known as I-131 which helps in destroying the thyroid cancer cells. This treatment is given in the form of liquid or capsules and is consumed through mouth. This treatment is given in small doses so as to avoid problem for patients allergic to iodine.

How does this therapy works?

The moment

radioactive iodine

is consumed by the patient; it gets absorbed by the intestine, flows with the bloodstream and gets accumulated in the thyroid cells. The cancerous cell of thyroid gland which is at the neck region or any other part of the body gets killed the moment they absorb the radioactive iodine.
If the patient is at the initial stage of cancer then they need low dosage and are considered as outpatient for the treatment. If the cancer is at advance stage then the dose has to be increased and the patient has to be an in-house patient so that others are protected from radiation exposure. This is done by keeping the patient in a separate room. The radiation goes away in few days to three weeks time. Only few traces of radioactive iodine are left in body which is not harmful.

Medullary thyroid cancer


anaplastic thyroid cancer

doesn’t require this therapy as they don’t response to radioactive iodine.

What are the side effects of iodine radiation for thyroid cancer?

The most common side effects associated with this therapy includes vomiting, swelling of thyroid gland, pain in the neck region and nausea. Other side effects are:

  • Loss of taste and smell for a small time period after undergoing radioactive iodine therapy. Patient even experience dry mouth and dry crack lines inside the gums. Doctors instruct the patient to drink lots of water or any other fluids. Water and fluids help in flushing out the radioactive iodine from the body and this even protects the bladder’s exposure to iodine. Chewing of sugar free gums or candy help in overcoming dry mouth problem.
  • Radioactive thyroid treatment sometimes destroys the thyroid hormone producing cells. Hence, the patients need to take thyroid pills as a substitute for natural hormones.
  • One of the rare side effects is the loss of fertility among men who are taking high dosage of radioactive iodine. This is not seen much in women, but doctors suggest female patients to avoid pregnancy for at least a year time.
  • Another kind of side effect which a patient might face is leukemia. Researchers have found that a small percentage of patients have developed leukemia after a gap of few years since they got the radioactive iodine treatment done.

Radioactive iodine

is one of the most recommended treatments for thyroid cancer patients. This has shown good percentage of cure rate.

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