27 May 2010
By Pratibha Masand
Radioactive Iodine Helps Treat Hundreds Of Patients A Year
For the umpteenth time in the last six months, Gopichand Meena, 35, a resident of Vadodara, visited the Radioactive Medicine Centre (RMC) in Parel on Tuesday. Meena, who has been suffering from hyperthyroidism for three years, got to know on International Thyroid Day on Tuesday that he has recovered considerably.
For almost 18 months, Gopichand suffered from weakness, weight loss, anxiety, irritability and an insatiable appetite. A diagnosis of hyperthyroidism and clinical medicines didn’t help. But beta rays from a few millicuries of radioactive iodine did.
“When I first heard the word ‘radioactive’, I was surprised and apprehensive. As far as I was concerned, radioactivity meant nuclear weapons and explosions. I couldn’t believe that the doctors were telling me to consume a radioactive metal. But they explained that a small amount of radioactive iodine would be diluted and, after I took it, it would giveoff beta rays to cure my thyroid. And, even though I would emit gamma rays for a few days, the process would actually help treatmy thyroid problem,” said Gopichand.
The RMC has been run by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) since 1963 and treats around 550 thyroid cancer patients and 400 thyrotoxin patients a year.
Dr Ramesh Asopa, head of clinical nuclear medicine, RMC, said that not everyone is given radioactive treatment. “Radioactivity can work in only certain conditions. For hyperthyroidism, the patient is first given clinical medicines for six months. If that doesn’t work, then tests and scans are done, which tell how much radioactivity is to be administered, if at all,” said Asopa. Yogendra Singh, 51, stayed for one day in the isolation room and another day in the post-isolation room after taking radioactive iodine.
Radiation Route To Better Health
When Radioactive Iodine Is Used
- It’s used for hyperthyroidism, where an overactive thyroid gland secretes more hormones than required, causing problems inthe body
- After surgery for thyroid cancer, where the gland is removed surgically, but cancerous parts may be left in the body
- The thyroid gland accumulates iodine and uses it to produce thyroid hormones required for normal bodily functions
- When radioactive iodine is taken in the body, it is absorbed by the stomach and intestines and carried in the bloodstream to the thyroid
- In the thyroid, the iodine disrupts the functioning of some thyroid cells. So an overactive thyroid is curbed Administering The Dose
- The radioactive iodine is put in a vial kept in a fume hood. The hood is a vaccum shielded by lead on all sides
- The patient puts their head in the hood and drinks the iodine through a straw. A suction pump ensures that spilled iodine is safely collected
- Hyperthyroid patients get a low dose and are sent home in 5 minutes. Thyroid cancer patients get a higher dose and are put in isolated rooms
- The patients and staff are checked for radioactivity. Empty vials, etc are disposed of Safety Norms
- A small amount of gamma radiations will emanate from the patient for a few days after treatment. While this radiation is beneficial for the patient, precautions are needed to reduce the radiation family and friends are exposed to
- Avoid prolonged contact, especially with babies and pregnant women
- Drink a lot of water
- Keep clothes and utensils away from other people
- Avoid pregnancy or breastfeeding