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What is radioactive iodine treatment?

Radioactive Iodine Treatment

Radioactive iodine treatment uses radioactive iodine medication to treat thyroid cancer or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). The thyroid gland efficiently absorbs and concentrates iodine. Once in the thyroid, radioactive iodine destroys thyroid cancer cells, as well as the thyroid. Radioactive iodine treatment, also called radioiodine therapy or I-131 treatment, is available in a capsule or liquid form.

Radioactive iodine treatment is only one method of treating thyroid diseases, disorders and conditions. Discuss all your treatment options with your doctor to understand which options are right for you.

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may recommend one or more additional procedures to treat thyroid cancer or hyperthyroidism including: 

  • Chemotherapy uses medications to slow or stop the growth of thyroid cancer cells.
  • External radiation therapy uses X-ray beams to kill thyroid cancer cells.
  • Surgery removes an overactive thyroid gland. You may also need surgery to remove all or part of a cancerous thyroid and possibly lymph nodes in the neck if the thyroid cancer has spread.
  • Thyroid hormone therapy uses drugs to prevent your body from making thyroid hormones or blocks their action to stop cancer cells from growing.
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 14, 2013

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Medical References

  1. General Nuclear Medicine. American College of Radiology. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=gennuclear#part_six. Accessed June 15, 2013.
  2. Radioactive iodine (radioiodine) therapy for thyroid cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/ThyroidCancer/DetailedGuide/thyroid-cancer-treating-radioactive-iodine. Accessed June 15, 2013.
  3. Radioactive Iodine Treatment. Diabetes & Hormone Center of the Pacific. http://www.endocrinologist.com/Radioactive.html. Accessed June 15, 2013.
  4. Radioiodine (I -131) Therapy for Hyperthyroidism. American College of Radiology. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=radioiodine. Accessed June 15, 2013.
  5. Thyroid Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/thyroid/Patient/page4. Accessed June 15, 2013.

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