Experts update recommendations for radioactive iodine therapy for thyroid disease

Researchers on a task force developed by the American Thyroid Association (ATA) recently created an updated list of recommendations that healthcare providers may consult before prescribing radioactive iodine 131 (I-131) to treat thyroid disease.

The ATA's Taskforce on Radioiodine Safety published the new guidelines in an issue of the journal Thyroid. Their report includes numerous safety suggestions for patients taking I-131.

All of its recommendations comply with the safety standards of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the regulations created by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement.

The ATA team noted that the necessity for updating I-131 treatment and safety guidelines stems from the radioactive isotope's widespread use in the fight against thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism.

Because thyroid cells exclusively absorb any iodine introduced into the body, the application of I-131 can be an effective treatment for Graves' disease, hyperthyroidism and carcinomas of the gland, especially as a method of destroying - or "ablating" - any thyroid cells that remain after the gland's removal.

Because I-131 is radioactive, it can affect healthy individuals who come into contact with a person who has recently received the treatment, according to the Columbia University Department of Surgery.

With that in mind, the task force recommended that patients who are taking I-131 drive alone or sit in the backseats of taxis, avoid caring for children and stay at least six feet away from other household members during the course of treatment.

Likewise, individuals with I-131 in their systems should try to stay at least six feet away from co-workers and caretakers most of the time, though the latter group may approach to within three feet for up to one-quarter of the day, the authors stated.

They added that individuals taking I-131 should avoid sharing any food, personal products or body fluids with others during the full course of their treatment for thyroid disease.

For physicians, the team noted that patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding, incontinent or unlikely to adhere to their medication schedule should never be considered for treatment with I-131.

More than 44,000 Americans are diagnosed with thyroid cancer every year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
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