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After Your RAI - In Hospital and at Home

Positive and promising results

After my RadioActive Iodine Treatment (RAI), there's this feeling of contentment and achievement that cannot be explained. Amidst the fact that I was diagnosed with cancer, that feeling that you have done something right, somehow. This surreal feeling won't be there without the help of friends who extended their overflowing support online and through numerous calls and messages, to my family who always there to listen and respect my life goals, to the doctors who help me pave the way to making well-informed decisions, to the different organizations especially RAFI-EJACC who contributed a lot for this therapy, to my clients who supported my time off and provided the means to continue the fight - these, I can't stress enough how thankful I am.

I thought I was alone, but you guys made me realize, I wasn't.

After RAI-131 Whole Body Scan supervised by a Radiology Professional

This morning, my 4th day after taking the pill, I woke up early as 5AM, took a shower and at 7:30AM a Whole Body Scan (WBS) has been performed. This was done to identify any thyroid cancer that has spread outside the thyroid bed (ie become metastatic). In my case, it has not.

My WBS Post RAI-131 Scan Result including Full Body Anterior & Posterior Images together with my Anterior Neck Image

Is it time to celebrate? Definitely! One step closer to living the cancer free life however it doesn't just stop there. For the next 30 days, up until April 5, I still have a month to continue the therapy at home as I am still emitting gamma rays inside my body that might potentially harm and expose others to radiation.

From my previous article, Guidelines for patients receving RAI, I have mentioned the important guidelines to help you apply the basic principle on reducing radiation exposure to others, which are Distance, Time, and Hygiene. Hope you still remember!

Here are more details about the isolation guidelines.

Sleep alone for the first few days after treatment. During this period, avoid kissing or sexual intercourse. Also, avoid prolonged physical contact, particularly with children and pregnant women; the thyroid glands of children and fetuses are more sensitive to the effects of radioiodine than those of adults.

If you have a baby, or you are taking care of one, your doctor can instruct you on how to follow the guidelines. It is preferable not to have the baby too close, such as sitting on your lap, for more than a short time during the first 2 days after treatment.

If you are breastfeeding your baby, you must stop because radioiodine is secreted through breast milk. Discuss with your doctor when you can resume breastfeeding.

If you are pregnant, or think could be, tell your doctor because radioiodine treatment should not be given during pregnancy. Also, if you are planning to become pregnant, ask your doctor how long you should wait after treatment.

Wash your hands with soap and plenty of water each time you come from the toilet.

Keep the toilet clean. Flush it 2 or 3 times after each use.

Rinse the bathroom sink and tub thoroughly after you use them to reduce the chances of others becoming contaminated with the radioiodine from your saliva and sweat.

Drink plenty of liquids such as water or juices. This makes you urinate more frequently and helps in the elimination of radioiodine from your body more rapidly.

Use separate or disposable eating utensils for the first few days and wash them separately to reduce contamination with radioiodine from your saliva.

Use separate towels and wash clothes. Launder your bath towels, bed linens and underclothing separately.

My mom at 2 meters away from me who visited a day after I took the pill. I was still highly radioactive, reason why she is on full gear to protect her from Gamma Radiation.

Based on the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Vol 33, No 1 Jan 2006 and as outlined by Dr Charles S. Tan, here are the patient instructions after RadioActive Iodine Therapy.

  • Distance from other persons - at least 1 meter for more than 1 hour
  • Distance from pregnant women - Minimize contact, at least 2 meter
  • When to become pregnant/father - Wait 4 months after treatment
  • Contact with children 10 yrs old and younger - Avoid close contact such as hugging and holidng
  • Contact with 2 yrs and younger - Should be cared for by someone else
  • Breast-feeding - Must be stopped completely
  • Close contact with partner and other people at home - hugging or sex should be limited to half an hour a day; sleep in separate beds, at least 2m apart
  • If partner is pregnant - Avoid close contact with her
  • Contact with 60 years and older - the risk is much lower, precautions less important
  • Contact with visitors - short visits, less than 2 hours are no problem. Keep distance about 2 meters
  • Work - Most people can go to work if they follow advice. If not possible, stay off work.
  • Working as nursery or school teacher - Stay off work for at least a week
  • Movies and entertainment - Avoid visiting social events it it means close contact with people for more than 1 hour.
  • Public Transport - During the first week, avoid journeys lasting more than 2 hours for longer trips, find a place to sit alone.
  • Taxi - sit in the back on the opposite side from the driver
  • Toilet - Pass urine while seated. Flush toilet and wash hands straightaway
  • Cutlery, crockery, bed linen, towels - Do not share with others. After washing, they are completely safe.
  • Hospitalization - If going to hospital unexpectedly, inform doctor that you have just been treated with radioactive iodine.

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