Ablation is the process of removing substances from the surface of an object by vaporization, chipping or by any other erosive process. In medicine, it is the removal of any part of body tissue, by surgery or any other process. Skin ablation, for example, is done by chemicals or laser to remove skin spots and wrinkles. Radioiodine ablation treatment of thyroid cancer involves administration of radioiodine to kill or eliminate healthy thyroid tissue (in the case of hyperthyroidism or complete removal of a cancerous thyroid) after initial surgery or cancerous tissue.
Radioiodine ablation is usually necessary even after surgical removal of the thyroid. This is mainly because most surgeons leave behind some thyroid tissue. This is done for two reasons. The first is to avoid damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerve that runs behind the thyroid and controls the voice box. The second is to save the parathyroid glands. Most people have four parathyroid glands (some may have six or eight), which are small endocrine glands behind the thyroid gland. These glands control calcium levels in the blood.
Besides elimination of residual malignant as well as healthy thyroid tissue, the other goal of radioiodine ablation is to facilitate future monitoring. While residual malignant tissue is risky, the presence of normal thyroid tissue can interfere with future imaging and laboratory tests that are required to monitor for the recurrence of cancer.
Any type of allopathic treatment carries a rider. Radioiodine ablation has numerous side effects. But, as in other treatments, these have to be weighed against the benefits derived from it. Although the side effects are known, they cannot be predicted on an individual basis because each patient responds differently to radioiodine. The main reason behind this is that side effects largely depend upon the dosage, which in turn largely depends upon the severity of the disease. Potentially, radioiodine treatment may lead to instances of nausea, vomiting, swelling of the salivary glands, dry mouth and drop in blood count.
Thyroid conditions include formation of nodules around the gland. Only about 10% of these nodules are malignant and tend to metastasize to other parts of the problem. The other common thyroid conditions are thyroid dysfunction (under-active or overactive) and goiter, which can potentially manifest as symptoms of thyroid problems in practically any part of the body.
Thyroid cancer is a serious and potentially fatal disease. A combination of surgical excision, radioiodine ablation and hormone replacement therapy is considered to be the best treatment for malignant thyroid cancer. This kind of holistic approach minimizes the risk of recurrence. Ablation treatment is recommended only if there is lack of involvement of the peripheral tissue and if there are no visible signs of metastasis.