Radioiodine Therapy for Thyroid Cancer
Radioiodine therapy is commonly used to treat thyroid cancer. In nearly all cases, patients will have had a thyroidectomy (surgery to remove the thyroid gland) before having radioiodine treatment. Even when the whole thyroid gland is removed during surgery, it is possible for small remnants of thyroid tissue to be left behind.
In some cases it is also possible that some malignant thyroid tissue may be found elsewhere within the body. Therefore after surgery, the Radioiodine will be taken up in thyroid tissue and the radiation will destroy those thyroid cells, without damaging the surrounding structures within the neck and rest of the body.
In approximately half of patients, not all of the remnant thyroid tissue will be destroyed with one treatment and they may need to come back for a higher dose of Radioiodine.
Radioiodine therapies for thyroid cancer are carried out on an inpatient basis on Onslow Ward at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. Stays are usually between one and four nights, depending upon the amount of radioiodine given and how quickly it clears from the body. The treatment is carried out by a Medical Physicist, who also gives radiation protection advice at discharge. An oncology doctor will also be involved in the therapy. The therapy itself is administered orally as a capsule. In order to ensure that the therapy is as effective as it can be, patients must reduce the amount of iodine in their diet for two weeks before the therapy.
The therapy will take place in a single ensuite room and during the stay the patient must remain in the room at all times. Visitors are limited to one at a time and no pregnant women or children are allowed to visit the patients during this time.
The advice given on discharge will usually involve keeping at least one metre away from other people, except for up to 15 minutes per day when closer contact is allowed. This advice should be followed for several days. More detailed information is given in the Patient Information Leaflet.
A few days after your therapy, you will have a scan in Nuclear Medicine that will look at where the Radioiodine has been taken up in your body. This information will help your Consultant decide whether you are likely to need further treatments.
More detailed information on this therapy and the low iodine diet can be found in the Patient Information Leaflet.