Radioactive Iodine (Radioiodine) Therapy | Nuclear Medicine - Clinics - Kent Health Group | +90 850 222 53 68

Radioactive Iodine (Radioiodine) Therapy

Thyroid gland absorbs nearly all of the iodine in the body. When radioactive iodine (RAI), also known as I-131, is taken into the body in liquid or capsule form, it concentrates in thyroid cells. The radiation can destroy the thyroid gland and any other thyroid cells (including cancer cells) that take up iodine, with little effect on the rest of the body.

This treatment can be used to ablate (destroy) any thyroid tissue not removed by surgery or to treat some types of thyroid cancer that have spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body.

Radioactive iodine therapy improves the survival rate of patients with papillary or follicular thyroid cancer (differentiated thyroid cancer) that has spread to the neck or other body parts, and this treatment is now standard practice in such cases. But the benefits of RAI therapy are less clear for patients with small cancers of the thyroid gland that do not seem to have spread, which can often be removed completely with surgery. Radioactive iodine therapy cannot be used to treat anaplastic (undifferentiated) and medullary thyroid carcinomas because these types of cancer do not take up iodine.

Patient’s body will give off radiation for some time after RAI therapy. Depending on the dose of radioiodine used, patient might need to be in the hospital for a few days after treatment, staying in a special isolation room to prevent others from being exposed to radiation. Some people may not need to be hospitalized. Once patient is allowed to go home after treatment, he or she will be given instructions on how to protect others from radiation exposure and how long he or she need to take these precautions.

Short-term side effects of RAI treatment may include:

Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy may help with salivary gland problems.

Men who receive large total doses because of many treatments with RAI may have lower sperm counts or, rarely, become infertile. Radioactive iodine may also affect a woman’s ovaries, and some women may have irregular periods for up to a year after treatment. Many doctors recommend that women avoid becoming pregnant for 6 months to a year after treatment. No ill effects have been noted in the children born to parents who received radioactive iodine in the past.

Radioactive Iodine I-131 therapy is also a treatment for an overactive thyroid, a condition called hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by Graves' disease, in which the entire thyroid gland is overactive, or by nodules within the gland which are locally overactive in producing too much thyroid hormone.