Thyroid Disease & Surgery


Thyroid tissue is the only type of tissue that uses Iodine in the body. For this reason, radioactive Iodine plays a role in both the imaging and treatment of thyroid cancer. When the thyroid gland is surgically removed, the surgeons often leave behind some thyroid tissue in their efforts to protect other essential structures in the anterior neck. The thyroid scan is used to determine the amount of residual thyroid tissue left behind after surgery, or to identify any new sites of thyroid cancer that may have developed since the previous imaging study. 

Preparing for this type of imaging takes several weeks, and special instructions will be given to you by your endocrinologist and the nuclear medicine scheduler. The day before imaging, you are asked to come to the nuclear medicine department to receive the molecular tracer by mouth. Twenty-four hours later, we acquire images of your entire body while you are resting on an imaging table and the imaging camera moves along your body. A separate measurement of your neck is made while sitting in a chair. The entire imaging session takes approximately 2 hours. 


The imaging described in Thyroid Cancer Imaging is sometimes followed by treatment with a different kind of radioactive iodine, which releases energy to kill the thyroid tissue. The decision as to which patients with thyroid cancer benefit from this additional treatment is made by your team of physicians. The treatment is given by mouth and requires a meeting with the radiologist to explain specific radiation precautions. If specific conditions are not met in your home, this treatment may require hospitalization for 2-3 days. 

Thyroid scans are also quite helpful for surveillance of cancer recurrence. Your endocrinologist and our endocrine radiologists will coordinate this aspect of your care at regular follow up intervals after surgical removal of your thyroid cancer. 

Learn more about Endocrine Surgery at The Oregon Clinic