BANGALORE: People with thyroid cancer are often given radioactive iodine treatment post surgery to kill cancer cells that may have been left behind. This treatment comes with its own health risks.
Now, new recommendations say a safer, lower dose of radioactive iodine is just as effective as a higher dose in getting rid of any such cells that remain after surgery.
The recommendations, to be published in the forthcoming American Thyroid Association Guidelines 2014, are followed by doctors across the world including India and are expected to improve patient safety, ensure uniformity in treatment and cut recurrent hospitalisation costs for patients, besides minimising side effects of radioactive iodine.
As per the recommendations, low-dose (30 millicurie) radioactive iodine has received final approval for treatment of thyroid cancer after surgery instead of the high dose (100-150 millicurie) that is normally given. Secondly, patients will be treated as per risk group ie, low, intermediate and high risk, based on the chance of recurrence of cancer and chance of death.
The third most important recommendation is the compulsory usage of ultrasound and needle aspiration to be conducted on all patients before surgery. City doctors say this is a welcome step and will help improve patient safety and standardisation of treatment.
Dr K G Kallur, Head, Nuclear Medicine, HCG, Bangalore, said, “Low dose of radioactive iodine therapy is beneficial for patients with good prognostic factors. As the administered dose is less, patients can be discharged earlier from the hospital. There have been reports that suggest that men who receive high doses may have lower sperm counts or may become infertile. Radioactive iodine may also affect a woman’s ovaries and a few women may have irregular periods for up to a year after the treatment. In rare cases, men and women who have had such therapy may have a slightly increased risk of developing leukemia in the future.”
Radioactive iodine therapy improves the survival rate of patients with thyroid cancer that has spread to the neck or other body parts, and the treatment is now a standard practice in such cases.
According to the Indian Thyroid Society, 4.2 crore Indians suffer from thyroid disorders, of which almost 90 per cent are undiagnosed. Three per cent of thyroid disorders can be attributed to thyroid cancer alone. There are between 10,000 - 20,000 new thyroid cancer cases annually, said a press release.