Thyroid Issues after Radiation

Last Modified: June 8, 2012

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How can radiation for my throat cancer affect my thyroid? What should I do to make sure I don't have a thyroid problem after treatment?


Alexander Lin, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Penn Medicine, responds:

Radiation, when delivered to the neck, can often lead to impaired thyroid function (hypothyroidism). In fact, some studies suggest that up to 50% of pts who undergo bilateral neck radiation will at some point become hypothyroid. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, and extreme sensitivity to the cold. Fortunately, diagnosis of hypothyroidism is relatively straightforward, via a lab test. Also, treatment of hypothyroidism is relatively straightforward, requiring a daily pill supplement to replace thyroid hormone.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Head and Neck Cancer Q&A Webchat transcript.

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