Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Public - Thyroid Radiation Treatment Collateral Damage Part 1

The hotel linens you slept on may have been contaminated with radiation.  The person who sat next to you on your last bus ride may have been so radioactive that they set off alarms.  The person in the next table at the restaurant you ate at last may have been emitting and contaminating the area with radiation.

How do I know?

I was one of them who may have contaminated you.

Autoimmune Disease is the #2 reason for illness in our country.  Autoimmune Thyroid Disease is one of the most common autoimmune diseases in today's world.  Hashimoto's Thyroiditis causes low thyroid levels and is more common than Graves' Disease which causes high thyroid levels.  Thyroid cancer is also a common type of cancer.  What do these three things have in common?

Treatment with Radioactive I-131.

I-131 is radioactive iodine.  In the normal body, iodine is used mainly by the thyroid where it is converted into thyroid hormones which control the metabolism of each and every single cell in your body.  Patients are led to a small lead protected room, where a tech wearing protective gear holds a small lead box containing the I-131.  The patient swallows a small capsule(s).  The iodine races to the bloodstream where it spends time at each and every one of your organs and tissues before eventually being *sucked up* by the thyroid.  While in the body, the I-131 irradiates everything it comes near.  When it settles in the thyroid it does most of its damage by concentrating there and irradiating the gland and killing it.  This is called I-131 thyroid ablation. 

The entire process takes months.  

The treatment is completely invisible.  It is said to be "harmless".  It is said to "cure" thyroid dysfunction problems like Graves' and (rarely) Hashi's, as well as thyroid cancer.  It doesn't actually even "cure" thyroid dysfunction, but that's for another post.

This article finally shines light on the dangers of this treatment to the public. The thyroid community has talked semi-openly about this for years.  Finally, someone is listening...

In the veterinary world, animals who undergo I-131 treatment are quarantined for a month or more to be sure they will not contaminate the public or their surroundings.  Great care is taken to assure that no one is harmed while the animals are dangerously radioactive.

Not so in the human world. 

In our world, patients are given the I-131 and immediately go on about their daily business.  Although patients may be warned not to vomit, and to *take care* while using the bathroom, no one oversees what patients actually DO during the time they are emitting dangerous radioactivity.

The article cites a couple of recorded scenarios:

*  One notable patient rode the bus the day of treatment, setting off radiation detectors in New York's Lincoln Tunnel.

*  A survey was taken of I-131 cancer patients that noted: 7% went to hotels with their doctor's knowledge.  The article goes on to tell the story of workers from a nuclear plant who stayed at a hotel after a patient's room laundry was done by staff, spreading the contamination.  They were so contaminated after sleeping in the sheets etc that they set off alarms at their nuclear facility.  (If it were not for the fact these people worked in a facility equipped with radiation detection devices, no one would ever have known.)

*  25% were never told how to keep from exposing pregnant women and children from their radiation.  The survey noted 56 cases where bathrooms or bedrooms were shared by pregnant women or children.  Neither this nor the dangers of "other close contact" was explained to them.

* Maryland and Massachusetts are two states that have stated problems with radiation contaminated trash setting off alarms resulting in exposure to workers when they were forced to unload the trucks to search for the source.

Beyond the article, I have been told personal stories of patients who were given notes to board airplanes and other public transportation so patients could return home, begging the question - what about the rest of the passengers who spend hours with these patients in close quarters, perhaps being unwittingly contaminated by mere proximity, or body fluids such as sweat or those spread by a cough or sneeze.  What about the people who will ride after the person has long gone home?

What about those patients who go to work the next day exposing everyone with whom they come into contact, who they may or may not even know?  What if one is in the earliest most susceptible period of pregnancy?  What about the baby in the grocery cart ahead of them in the line at the store?  What about the clothes they try on at the department store and don't buy?

Tomorrow: Part 2 - My Personal Story

Views: 327
Comment by Alicia C. Staley on January 13, 2011 at 9:57pm
Hey there.
Great article. I've always wondered about this subject. Why doesn't the general public know more about this?
When I was undergoing treatment for hodgkin's disease in 1991-1992, I underwent 15 weeks of radiation treatments over the course of the year.  I went to the UofR Cancer Center every week day for my 5 minute radiation zap. The radiation center was in the basement of the hospital.  I called it the "pit" (note: double entendre).  When the doctor and nurses were done setting me up on the radiation table, they'd run right out of the room and the heavy, lead lined door would slam behind them.  I'd always have a laugh at that.  "Gee, it's that bad in here that you have to go running out? What? You can't stay in here? Too bad, I'm having a radiation party! More for me!"

As a side note, see this interesting discussion on a hospital website about their new cancer center - read is the cancer center safe?  Why, yes it is because it's surrounded with 6 feet of poured concrete and lead.  Lovely! The radiation departments are always in the basement to help provide a natural shield against any stray radiation beams.  Perhaps this is my mechanical engineering background shining through, but I found this article on the design and development of a state of the art cancer center to be fascinating.  Check out this paragraph:

Constructing seven linear accelerator vaults, including the installation of approximately 200,000 pounds of lead for each linear accelerator, to act as a shielding system. The lead shielding system was supplemented by concrete walls up to 4'11" thick, 10 feet of soil outside the vaults on the building perimeter, and a maze wall design inside the vaults (to buffer the radiation-generating equipment and thus reduce door-shielding requirements).

Wow, that's a lot of lead and some serious backup shielding to protect everyone from radiation leaks.  Now, if we're building our radiation centers to these specifications to withstand stray radiation beams, why aren't we doing more to educate the public about this possible risk?  Very interesting post!  Thank you.
Comment by Eve on January 14, 2011 at 10:16am
Ellen-it is so important that people understand the dangers of radioactive iodine. I have been reading a yahoo group forum about iodine. The founder of the foum had thyroid cancer, and she is very upset that they killed her thyroid, rather than try to repair it which is what iodine will do. However, it is not the same as the radioactive iodine.
A great book to read is "Iodine, why you need it and why you dont" by Dr. David Brownstein. As a breast cancer survivor, I take high amounts of iodine following Dr. B's protocol, and it has changed my life. Not only has it improved my breast tissue, it has even killed my plantar's warts.
Radioactive iodine is totally different from ionizing radiation that we go through for cancer. I had radiation too for breast cancer, and I am still mad at myself for saying no to this barbaric treatment. Every day, it freaked me out, yet I endured it because they were so convincing that it would kill any stray cells. Well, they killed my throid too! I have been hypo ever since, thus I am using the iodine protocol. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have tried to do things to boost my immune system to knock out any stray cancer cells, instead of subjecting myself to the dangers of radiation. I am still trying to detox all the radiation. My thermographs show my breast still is affected and it has been 3 years! And the even bigger lie is that mammography is just as dangerous!
Comment by Ellen S on January 14, 2011 at 5:16pm
I have a friend who went through Mammosite - a targeted very fine radiation procedure for her breast cancer.  Because it was so targeted, there was little "spillage" and very little had to be used in comparison to "normal" radiation techniques.

The primary difference between RAI I-131 is that the radioactive iodine goes through your digestive tract, into your bloodstream and is systemic.  This means it travels throughout your entire body.  Yes, it eventually settles in the thyroid where it is supposed to do its dirty work, but in the meantime it is damaging everything it comes near.  If you're a healthy person this may not make such a big difference in your life, but if you're already sick (like a Graves' patient) this can be a very different story.  Patients typically stay radioactive enough to set of alarms, even from a distance, for quite some period of time.

The literature I've found doesn't comment much on the danger of being exposed to this.  However, I  have had contact with cancer patients who have had as much radiation as their doctors will allow.  They can't use it anymore.  How many times do they come into contact with patients like me who were freely roaming around spreading it to everything they touched.  What about my laundry?  What about my kids?  Both of them have dieing thyroids now.  They have for quite some time.  They have TPO antibodies, but you get these antibodies when the thyroid has been damaged.  Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) is the stuff inside a thyroid cell.

The picture is surely very murky, but I am from the school of "better safe than sorry".  If I had known half of what I know now, I never would have undergone the procedure.  If I had no choice I would have at least been more careful than I was lead to believe I must.  I did have a choice.  I was just too uneducated and uninformed at the time to know it.

Hindsight as they say, is 20-20.  
Comment by Eve on January 14, 2011 at 8:56pm
Ellen-the mammosite is only applicable in some cases. I could not do it because my tumor was too near the surface and my skin would have been burned. Plus you have to wear this port sticking out the whole time, which does not sound very safe. But I agree with you. I would not make the same decisions today. However, as you know, when we are presented with these decisions, we are a mess and in no condition to make decisions. This is why we need to educate ourselves beforehand. We are not even told we have any alternative choices because only "standard protocols" can be followed by doctors, or they could be sued. It is such a sad state. Modern medicine is not always what is best for the patient, but what is best for the pocket, and is controlled by the threat of litigation.
We all need to educate ourselves better, which is why I became a holistic health advcocate. I want to try to get more information out there, so that people will make these decisions with confidence. I hope that everyone will look into the importance of iodine supplements for anyone who is hypothyroid.
Comment by Eve on January 14, 2011 at 8:57pm
BTW Ellen-Your horse is beautiful!
Comment by Alicia C. Staley on January 14, 2011 at 9:19pm
Hey Eve -- I had mammosite too! What was your experience?! I've certainly maxed out on radiation, and I've never read anything about radioactive Iodine risks.  I'm going to spend sometime this weekend looking into this a bit more. Thanks for all the information Ellen!
Comment by Ellen S on January 14, 2011 at 10:37pm
Alicia - that would be fabulous!  I'm not as up to speed on all that is radiation I'm afraid.

My friend Barbara Brooks was interviewed for the local TV station about Mammosite.  It airs the first week of February.  She's a great person, and a Health Activist here too!  As far as the cancer goes... so far so good!

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