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.