Why is the thyroid gland often left naked when patients are x-rayed?
A few weeks ago, I was lying prone on a specialized table with surrounding xray machines in preparation for my stereotactic breast biopsy. I asked, "May I please have a thyroid guard?"
"Sure," the tech answered and promptly got me one. She wrapped the heavy, lead collar around my neck and then called in the physician, "We're ready."
The thyroid is a gland that lies in the front part of the neck. The most common cause of thyroid cancer is exposure to radiation, either from the environment or as a result of prior medical treatment where radiation was applied to the head and neck area.
Why would any radiology professionals neglect such a simple way to protect the thyroid, when doing so doesn't interfere with the test? Some experts claim the x-ray of exposure from any one procedure is minimal and not enough to cause cancer.
Why bother? Because patients' radiation risk is cumulative over a lifetime.
It takes seconds to put on a guard. Until protecting the thyroid becomes the standard of care, I suggest patients request a lead thyroid guard whenever having dental or other x-rays.
Don't feel paranoid if you've already had x-rays done without a thyroid guard. The risk is small. Really. Healthy Survivors don't focus on a past that can't be changed. They focus on what they can do from here on to get good care.