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What Is the Connection between Thyroid Cancer and Iodine?

By Jami Yontz
Updated May 17, 2024
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Thyroid cancer and iodine treatment plans are used as a method of follow-up treatment to thyroid cancer removal surgery. Cells of the thyroid naturally absorb iodine, and these types of cells are the only kind that do absorb iodine in the body. After cancerous tissue or tumors are removed from the thyroid, radioactive iodine is put into the person’s bloodstream and absorbed by the thyroid cells. Cells that still contain cancer will be destroyed by the radioactive material, and all other cells will remain unharmed.

The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland located at the base of the human neck and produces the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thryoxine (T4). These hormones help the body’s cells produce and convert energy and also regulate metabolism and the body’s production of other hormones. The thyroid gland is a essential organ that produces hormones involved in numerous process throughout the body, and if infected, these processes are damaged.

Thyroid cancer and iodine treatment plans are completed only after an initial diagnosis and surgical procedure has been performed. If there is suspicion that the person has thyroid cancer, the physician will take a sample of the thyroid nodule. If the diagnosis confirms the suspicion, the physician will recommend a course of treatment that may include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or radiation. Thyroid cancer and iodine treatments usually occur after a surgical procedure has been performed to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. Radioactive iodine, also known as I-131, is more commonly a treatment option for people diagnosed with papillary and follicular thyroid cancers.

Iodine treatment will begin about four to six weeks after the surgical procedure to remove the cancerous tissue. A smaller amount of the iodine will usually be given in the initial phase to determine if the cancerous cells are reactive to the radioactive material. Once the person’s body shows a positive reaction to the iodine, a full dose will be given in either liquid or pill form. The formula will infiltrate any remaining thyroid cells and destroy the cancerous tissue from within. Thyroid cancer and iodine treatment plans are usually more effective if the person has high levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone, which can be induced in a person by medically creating a short-term hypothyroidism condition.

Radioactive iodine treatment is not without risks and side effects. The radioactive iodine may cause the person to be at a higher risk for developing other types of cancer, such as breast cancer or leukemia. This treatment course can cause the person to be nauseated or have a sore throat. The person may need to avoid human contact for a few days to prevent exposing others to radiation.

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