Radiation Therapy for Thyroid Cancer

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
May 28, 2012

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Radiation therapy is used in case of an inoperable tumour. It reduces the size of tumour using ionizing radiation (a type of energy).  Radiation therapy is undertaken to treat those cases of thyroid cancer which have higher risk of recurrence. In this therapy, the cancerous tissue is reduced by aiming an external beam on it.  The disadvantage of opting for radiation therapy is that it damages both cancerous and non-cancerous cells. Although, non-cancerous cells survive most of the times, but still they are a threat.


To treat thyroid cancer, doctors use external radiation. For aiming external radiation at the tumour, a large machine is used from outside of the body. Patients taking this treatment course are required to receive it for five days a week. This treatment lasts between five to seven weeks. This frequency of the treatment keeps the healthy cells and tissues away from getting affected by radiation.


Side Effects of Treating Thyroid Cancer with Radiation

•    Patient is likely to be tired during radiation treatment, especially during the later weeks of therapy. Although it is important to take rest, doctors usually advise patients to remain as active as they can.

•    The skin of the treated area may become permanently darkened or bronzed.

•    Hair loss in the treated area.

•    Skin may becomes red, dry, tender, and itchy.

•    Patient  may feel hoarse or have trouble in swallowing solids.

•    Number of white blood cells also plummets by radiation therapy, thus, weakeneing the body's immunity system. If the blood counts decrease significantly, your doctor may advise some anti-infection medications. However, it is not suggested to continue the radiation therapy until blood count improves. Blood counts may be checked regularly and schedule of the treatment will change accordingly.


Although the disadvantages of radiation therapy for treating thyroid cancer can be distressing, the good part is that they are temporary and doctor can usually treat them.

Risk Factors of Thyroid Cancer

•    Risk is greater in people aged between 25 and 65 years.

•    Females have higher risk of developing thyroid cancer than males.

•    Exposure to radiation is the most potent risk. The cancer may occur after five years of exposure.

•    History of goitre (enlarged thyroid).

•    Family History of thyroid disease or thyroid cancer.

•    Certain genetic conditions such as familial medullary thyroid cancer (FMTC), multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A syndrome, and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B syndrome also increases the risk.

•    Asians are more prone to thyroid cancer than other races.


Read more articles on Thyroid Cancer.



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