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What is thyroid radiation?

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Quick Answer

Radioactive iodine therapy is the most common treatment for hyperthyroidism in the United States, according to EndocrineWeb. Radiation delivered via this method destroys all or part of the overactive thyroid gland.

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Thyroid cells are the main cells in the body that can absorb iodine. The hyperthyroid patient receives radioactive iodine in pill form, so hospitalization is not necessary. When the thyroid cells absorb the radioactive iodine, they are damaged or destroyed. There is very little radiation exposure to the rest of the body, and approximately 90 percent of patients need only one dose before they are cured of hyperthyroidism, claims EndocrineWeb. The most common side effect of radioactive iodine is hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, due to the death of an excessive amount of thyroid cells. This condition is essentially the opposite of hyperthyroidism but is much easier to treat on a long-term basis with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

Doctors also use radioactive iodine to treat thyroid cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The treatment is useful in destroying any thyroid tissue not removed by surgery. Radioactive iodine therapy improves the survival rate of patients with papillary or follicular thyroid cancer that has spread to the neck or other parts of the body.

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