Last updated on July 7th, 2020.
THYROID PROTECTION FOR PATIENTS AND MEDICAL STAFF
THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING YOUR THYROID
Amara Allen is a real person (only the name is changed to protect the patient; everything else in the story is real and true) who lives in the southeast corner of Idaho, a state that is bordered by Canada, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. It is a great, quiet, sleepy place to live and grow up in. She is 28 years old and has lived a quite “ordinary” life, filled with family, friends, a significant other and a lot of laughter, fun and tears. Mostly, the tears have come in the past three years, after her devastating diagnosis of advanced thyroid cancer. The diagnosis came with absolutely no warning. One evening, while visiting with friends, one of the friends was shocked to see what looked to be an egg sized shape and sized lump in Amara’s neck. Amara ran to the bathroom mirror and was horrified at what she saw. It had not been visible until that very evening. The next day, she called her doctor and was brought in for tests and within two weeks she had the diagnosis. One month later, she had a radical surgery that removed her entire thyroid gland and has been fighting the effects of losing her thyroid and battling the “leftover” cancer cells since that night of the discovery of the cancer.
What caused Amara’s thyroid cancer and it’s rapid growth? We will never know for sure, however; her teenage years were filled with severe dental problems, surgeries to fix misplaced and “wrong” growing teeth and extensive brace work. All of this, naturally, resulted in numerous and comprehensive dental x-rays. Sometimes multiple x-rays in a weeks period of time. After several years of intensive radiation from dental x-rays, orthodontic braces, and surgeries, Amara had an incredible smile and beautiful teeth and a great “bite.” Unfortunately, she also had thyroid cancer. Now, the big question is: did the many radiation doses from the many x-rays play a part in her thyroid cancer or did it develop without any help from the radiation? We will never know for sure, but, and this is serious: Amara was never, not even once, shielded for thyroid gland protection. She was shielded, every time, for “reproductive” protection, but her thyroid gland was unprotected during every single x-ray. Now, again, we have no idea if all those unprotected x-rays had anything to do with the thyroid cancer that Amara was diagnosed with and will, for the rest of her life, live with the consequences of. But we do know that a simple thyroid collar, at a very minimal cost, would have assured us that it was not the x-ray procedures that caused her cancer. Now, we will never know. But Amara will always live with the cancer and the effects of the cancer.
The thyroid is one of the most “susceptible sites to radiation-induced cancer” in the human body. The American Thyroid Association (ATA) also reports that in the United States, “thyroid cancer is increasing faster than any other” with more than 60,000 people diagnosed last year. The ATA also states that an “increase in the use of diagnostic x-rays necessitates the protection of the thyroid gland” in order to lesson the risk of thyroid cancer. When assessing this risk, it is very important to take into account repeated exposure to radiation over a lifetime. Physicians, lab and x-ray technicians, dentists and their assistants who are using and administering these procedures without adequate protection are at risk from scatter radiation. The results of studies from the ATA indicate that thyroid shielding is a practical and effective way for healthcare professionals to proactively protect themselves.
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL PROTECTION
For all medical professionals performing radiologic procedures, the use of thyroid collars is essential. Wearing these collars, which come in a variety of styles, materials, and sizes are an excellent precaution to take for premium radiation protection. Wearing thyroid shielding is in line with standards for radiation protection which also include time spent exposed, and the distance between the medical professional to the radiation source.
For all medical professionals who work with the risk of radiation exposure, shielding makes it possible to take on more procedures, as the protection increases the amount of time that one can be exposed.
A quality thyroid collar will have several characteristics designed to be effective in comfort, radiation protection, and ease of use for medical professionals. In purchasing thyroid collars for your medical practice, look for collars that protect all areas at risk, front and back. The outer fabric must be comfortable; a soft, non-scratchy, non-itchy fabric. This will insure the wearer will be comfortable and thus, will wear this collar everytime he or she needs to be protected from exposure. A soft, comfortable fabric will encourage the wearer to keep it on for multiple procedures and be able to use it comfortably for long-term treatment. A “one-size fits all” option is available in thyroid collars and gives the user great protection with the convenience of easy application and removal. Many thyroid collars are available for purchase, at extremely low and competitive costs, and are available in a variety of covers, styles, shapes and colors.
Thyroid protection is also crucial when it comes to patients. The European Commission for Guidelines on Radiation Protection concluded that providing thyroid protection in the form of lead shielding with thyroid collars to patients significantly reduces radiation doses. The European Commission for Guidelines on Radiation Protection completes their findings “that this type of patient protection is strongly recommended any time the thyroid is in the line of, or very close to, the primary beam.” Thyroid collars are designed to maximize patient protection, without sacrificing comfort. Furthermore, they are highly effective during CT scans, dental radiography, or any procedure where X-Ray radiation is utilized. This benefits any facility who is looking for a solution to protect their patients in a cost-effective manner while providing thyroid protection that is superior to other methods.
In conclusion, while we cannot for certain know that a thyroid collar would have helped Amara Allen avoid thyroid cancer and all of its’ ramifications, it would be very helpful to know that all was done, in the form of thyroid collars, to prevent that very thing from happening. A thyroid collar is a very inexpensive yet mind-calming and preventative measure that will assure all involved that everything is being done to prevent thyroid cancer in all its forms. We now know that using thyroid collars is a good thing; let us go forward doing all we can to only employ good things in our fight against thyroid cancer.