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Radioactive iodine (I131) for thyroid cancer

Radioactive iodine (I131) ablation is a treatment with radioactive iodine for papillary and follicular thyroid cancer. This treatment requires you to stay in hospital, although the length of stay is determined by the dose you are given, but usually ranges from one day to two or three nights. You will have your own bedroom and bathroom. The iodine is a capsule (similar size to antibiotics), which is taken easily with water.

As the thyroid gland naturally takes up the iodine from the food we eat, once digested, the radioactive iodine is absorbed by the thyroid and destroys any remnants of thyroid tissue that may be left after surgery.

You will be asked to follow a low iodine diet for two weeks prior to treatment, and on the two days immediately before treatment, to have an injection with  a drug called Thyrogen (Recombinant human thyroid stimulating hormone rhTSH).

Unfortunately, while in hospital, you will not be allowed visitors. You can bring in laptops, tablets, mobile phones etc, and will have access to wi-fi.

There will be radiation precautions to follow  after you are discharged. Radiographers will  give you further information about this.

After you have been discharged you will need to return to hospital for a scan, and for your radioactivity levels to be re-measured.

For more information please download our patient information leaflet here

View the low iodine diet factsheet here.