WEDNESDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- People with thyroid cancer are often given a radioactive iodine treatment to wipe out stray cancer cells, a treatment that comes with its own health risks.
Now, two new studies find that a safer, lower dose of radioactive iodine is just as effective as the higher dose at getting rid of any such cells that remain after surgery.
The research also found that patients were just as likely to have their thyroid shrunk away if they took a drug called Thyrogen (thyrotropin) as if they underwent thyroid hormone withdrawal -- which leads to fatigue, pain and weight gain -- before embarking on the radioiodine treatment.
The two studies, published in the May 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, compared low- and high-dose radioactive iodine in a total of more than 1,000 patients. The participants, from Britain and France, also received either Thyrogen or thyroid hormone withdrawal as part of the therapy.
In either study, the researchers found that patients who received the low-dose (30 millicuries) of radioactive iodine in combination with Thyrogen were just as apt to have their remaining thyroid cells mopped up -- with fewer side effects -- than patients who received higher-dose (100 millicuries ) radioiodine along with either Thyrogen or hormone withdrawal.
However, the researchers say they plan on monitoring the patients for several years to see if rates of cancer recurrence are similar in the different groups.
"We try to give the lowest possible effective radiation dose so that we cure the current cancer, but we do not increase the risk of producing a second cancer resulting from the radiation itself," explained Dr. Ujjal Mallick, an oncologist at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care in Newcastle upon Tyne, in England, and lead author of the UK study.
Radioactive iodine has been associated with increased ris
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