A Utah mom reflects on the time-tested radioactive iodine cancer treatment

A bottle containing a number of doses of radioactive iodine, a pill containing one dose. Radioactive iodine is used to deal with thyroid cancer and illnesses. (University of Utah Health)

Estimated studying time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Shirley Crepeau was a bit of hesitant about 12 years in the past when medical doctors advisable radioactive iodine to deal with her thyroid cancer. She trusted her medical doctors at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, however she was nonetheless scared and scared.

“When I go away a 12-year-old woman alone and go away my husband a widow or drink poison, I drink poison,” she stated.

Currently, 54-year-old Crepo is a mom of 4 kids. Her youngest was 12 years previous when she was identified with cancer.

“We’ve tried to make a cancer analysis an enormous occasion as a lot as potential,” he stated.

However, radioactive iodine treatment was positively an occasion.

He was given a small vial to drink from when he was alone in a sure room and was given quite a few warnings over the speaker system to not spill or drop. He stated it was salty.

They had been instructed to avoid pregnant folks and youngsters for per week after taking it. He stayed in his bed room for per week. Crepeau stated it was “very unhappy,” however her husband did every part he may to assist her keep in contact along with her household, together with video calls at the breakfast desk and waves from the window.

“In the grand scheme of issues, it was per week of my life, after which I got here again to myself,” he stated.

the way it works

Thyroid cancer is one in every of the commonest cancers and the best to deal with, partially due to radioactive iodine.

Dr. Dev Abraham of the Huntsman Cancer Institute stated radioactive iodine was first utilized in the Nineteen Thirties and Forties, round the identical time chemotherapy was developed and the treatment turned common in the Sixties. It treats thyroid cancer and illnesses that trigger the thyroid gland to overproduce hormones, and Graves’ illness.

“It’s stood the take a look at of time,” Abraham stated.

What has modified over the time it has been used is the dose, which Abraham says has not too long ago proven a small however statistically vital improve as a result of an excessive amount of radioactive iodine could cause different cancers, prompting decrease doses. in the final 5 to 10 years.

Radioactive iodine is used in the treatment of thyroid cancer and diseases.  Since it is a radioactive substance, many measures are taken to reduce its exposure.
Radioactive iodine is utilized in the treatment of thyroid cancer and illnesses. Since it’s a radioactive substance, many measures are taken to cut back its publicity. (Photo: University of Utah Health)

Radioactive iodine is run by capsule or drink, and Abraham stated it is a distinctive focused treatment. Thyroid tissue, together with thyroid tissue that has unfold all through the physique after the thyroid cancer has entered the physique, is destroyed by the treatment. Other cells in the blood that come into contact with radioactive iodine will not be affected.

“It’s a treatment that is decided by the capability of a selected tissue to just accept, or absorb, or retain iodine. So, tissues that maintain iodine are significantly delicate to being killed by this low degree of radioactivity,” Abraham stated.

Before taking a dose of radioactive iodine, medical doctors like Ibrahim assist the affected person starve the thyroid and thyroid cancer tissue of iodine by giving up sure meals so the cells can starve and soak up extra radioactive iodine.

Usually, treatment is given after most of the cancer has been surgically eliminated, which can be cancer cells or cancer cells which have unfold, and thyroid cancer cells are extra frequent in thyroid cancers than in lots of different cancers.

He stated that in lots of cancers, unfold to different areas worsens the prognosis. However, the unfold of thyroid cancer with radioactive iodine doesn’t essentially imply a foul prognosis.

long run results

Although one dying is just too many, in line with Abraham, not too many sufferers die from thyroid cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022, there shall be about 43,800 new instances of thyroid cancer and a couple of,230 deaths.

The foremost goal of radioactive iodine is to cut back the recurrence of thyroid cancer, he stated.

Crepeau continues to see Abraham yearly, stated he has been caring for him for years and that he continues to do very effectively and that the radioactive iodine treatment has been efficient.

Crepeaux is one in every of a small variety of thyroid cancer sufferers with residual cancer. According to Abraham, these are probably dying thyroid cancer cells, and most sufferers have cancer cells that stay however don’t progress and are nearly as good as a treatment.

Because of the radioactive iodine treatment, Crepeaux continually struggles with a dry nostril, throat and eyes. She stated she at all times has a water bottle along with her and makes use of dietary supplements to assist rehydrate.

According to Abraham, that is one in every of the explanation why treatment is tailor-made to the affected person utilizing the lowest efficient dose. He stated that typically two doses are utilized in extreme instances, however hardly ever three.

If the cancer comes again and Crépeau decides to take a second dose of radioactive iodine, it can go away her with no tears, saliva or saliva — much more discomfort.


Crepeau has been a barber for 30 years, however is now learning to change into a paramedic.

“That’s what I’ve. It’s not me. I’m Shirley and I’ll at all times be Shirley. A little salty. A little bitter… I do not maintain again from anyone. And if I really like you. , I really like you with every part.. “I’m not going to let cancer or the rest change that or outline me,” she stated.

She says it is due to her main care doctor who screened her for thyroid cancer. If he hadn’t, he would have been lifeless inside a couple of years. When he was discovered, he was between stage three and 4 and had unfold to his lungs. His solely signs had been shoulder ache and issue swallowing.

Now, Crepeaux encourages everybody to search for a thyroid nodule via a self-exam or ask their physician for an annual bodily examination.

After the surgical procedure, Crepeau was instructed that her voice can be very hoarse and whispery, however remedy and her excessive pitched voice helped her to maintain her voice, however she stated it now takes plenty of effort to make an audible voice.

“Luckily, I used to be a kind of loud folks earlier than the operation, so now I’ve a traditional voice,” she stated.

But his chortle was nonetheless the identical loud chortle, fun that made the others in the room chortle much more.

Overall, Crepo shared a message of hope and inspired others to be grateful and focus on the little issues that convey them happiness.

“Most folks with cancer live with it, they are not dying from it,” he stated.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. It covers courts and authorized affairs, in addition to well being, religion and faith information.

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