Radioactive Iodine


I went to the dentist yesterday for a routine check up and cleaning.  (I’m happy to report that I have no cavities!)  As the days got closer to my appointment, I found myself thinking about the dental x-rays and wondering about radiation exposure.  As a cancer survivor, the last thing that I want or need in my body is more radiation.  The RAI (Radioactive Iodine  - also known as I-131) was more than enough for me, thank you.  I know that there is radiation in the x-rays, but didn’t know how much. 

Knowledge is Power!  I have the means to find out and educate myself on radiation.  And that is what I did.  I started with the FDA site and found an article called “Reducing Radiation for Medical X-rays” that had tons of information.  I didn’t know the specifics about x-rays until I read it in the FDA article.  It said “X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation that can penetrate clothing, body tissue, and internal organs. An X-ray machine sends this radiation through the body. Some of the radiation emerges on the other side of the body, where it exposes film or is absorbed by a digital detector to create an image. And some of it is absorbed in body tissues. It is the radiation absorbed by the body that contributes to the “radiation dose” a patient gets.”

The FDA also had this short video on their site about radiation and x-rays:

The more research I found, the more concerned I got.  Advancements in technology are leading to new kinds of scanners, like the cone-beam CT scanner used at many dental offices.  According to the NY Times article Radiation Worries for Children in Dentists’ Chairs, “Some states have in effect no inspections of dental X-ray units,” said Dr. G. Donald Frey, professor of radiology at the Medical University of South Carolina and a past president of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. While inspectors generally evaluate machine performance, few attempt to measure the overall radiation risk to the patient’s organs.  “States tend not to want to regulate the practice of medicine or dentistry,” Dr. Frey said.

The real “jaw dropper” was the video called “The Price of a Smile” posted by the NY Times.   This video digs a little deeper into some of the new technology embraced by some dentists and orthodontists.  It really makes you wonder if money has become more important than health.  Here is the video:  http://video.nytimes.com/video/2010/11/22/us/1248069363524/the-price-of-a-smile.html

My vision for this post was to share information on radiation and x-rays used in the dental profession as well as other medical professions.  However, after reading a few articles and watching a couple short videos on the dental industry’s use of x-rays and scans, I found more than I expected.  It was more than I wanted to be “exposed” to. 

As for my dental visit, I was never even asked to have any x-rays done.  I had them over a year ago, but they did not see the need for them during my visit.  Go figure!  (Oh and I’m happy to report no cavities.) 

A couple of weeks ago I had a painful reminder from my salivary gland that the RAI (radioactive iodine) treatment is starting to take a toll.  Almost two years ago, I took RAI (I-131) to kill any remaining cancer cells lurking around in my thyroid tissue.  This was done a couple of weeks after my thyroidectomy.  I didn’t have any issues with my salivary glands during that time.
If it’s not one gland, it’s another.  Instead of my thyroid gland being diagnosed with cancer, now my parotid gland has been diagnosed with sialadenitis.  Oh joy!  At this point, it is hard to say if my sialadenitis of the parotid gland is a direct result of the RAI or not.  There is not too much research on the long-term effects of RAI to date.  However, I did find a case study in the JADA called Salivary Gland Injury Resulting From Exposure to Radioactive Iodine that was very informative.  According to this study, “In the majority of cases, when a patient receives therapeutic doses of 131I, the patient develops an asymmetric radiation sialadenitis. Obstructive symptomatology is to be expected. Oral dryness occurs less often and is related directly to high dosages and the passage of time. Clinicians should be aware of the condition to avoid unnecessary diagnostic and therapeutic measures.”
Back to my story…
The pain and swelling continued for several days.  I finally went to the Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor) last week and was told to drink a lot of water, suck candies, massage the salivary gland area and put a warm compress on it. The goal is to keep the saliva flowing and wash away any blockage. I did all of those things and it got better. I went a couple of days without swelling or pain. Then this morning I had a few bites of breakfast and the pain came back with the swelling. Nooooo! Not again!! I took Advil, massaged the area and put on a warm compress. It helped. But a girls gotta eat, so by lunch time I tried again.  It didn’t go too well. I called and left a message for my ENT and am waiting to hear back. This is very frustrating. I’m trying to keep it in perspective. Things could always be worse. I’m grateful that the thyroid cancer is in remission. Since that is the reason the RAI was even done, I need to remind myself that it did work.
My life is really good! However, eating is kind of important, so I’m hoping my parotid gland gets better soon!  Until then, I will be massaging away, chain chewing gum and sucking candies, drinking lots of water and sharing my journey with all of you.

Knowledge is power!  Below are some websites I have found to be helpful.  They have good information about the thyroid, thyroid cancer, radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment, low-iodine diet (LID) and other thyroid cancer related topics. 

   

ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association http://www.thyca.org/  If you’re looking for yummy LID recipes be sure to visit Thyca Low Iodine Cookbook 

 

Thyroid Cancer Songs  http://www.thyroidcancersongs.com/index.html  These fun songs are sure to lift the spirit and remind people with thyroid cancer that they are not alone.

 

Thyroid Cancer Site http://thyroidcancersite.com

 

American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org 

 

Relay for Life http://tinyurl.com/jhurelay4life

 

 American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists http://www.aace.com

 

American Thyroid Association  http://www.thyroid.org 

 

 http://www.thyroid.org/patients/brochures/ThyroidCancer_brochure.pdfhttp://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/thyroid  

 

http://www.mythyroid.com/thyroidcancer.html

 

http://www.cap.org/apps/docs/reference/myBiopsy/papillary_thyroid_cancer.html

 

http://www.hormone.org The Hormone Foundation 

  

http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/help/default.asp?page=5437#recover Life after thyroid cancer 

 

http://www.thyroid-cancer.net Johns Hopkins Thyroid Cancer Center  

http://www.thyroid-info.com Unbiased News, Books and Support 

 

http://www.dearthyroid.org Literary thyroid support community 

  

http://checkyourneck.com  Light of Life Foundation 

 

http://twitter.com/tcancersurvivor  If you’re on twitter, follow me! 

If you have helpful thyroid cancer sites to add, please post them in the comment section.  I will add them to this blog after reviewing them. 

 

Thanks in advance!

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