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Functional and biochemical changes in the thyroid gland following exposure to therapeutic doses of external beam radiotherapy in the head-and-neck cancer patients

1 Department of Radiotherapy, GGSMCH, Faridkot, Punjab, India
2 Department of Biochemistry, GGSMCH, Faridkot, Punjab, India

Correspondence Address:
Amritjot Singh Randhawa,
Randhawa, H. No. 4978/A Amarkot, Lane No. 3, P/O Box Khalsa College, Amritsar - 143 001, Punjab
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jcrt.JCRT_148_19

Context: Majority of the head-and-neck cancers are locoregionally advanced at the time of diagnosis. Hence, radiotherapy (RT) portals will invariably cover the whole neck and thus, the thyroid gland which may lead to its dysfunction. Aims: The purpose of this study is to identify the functional and biochemical changes in the thyroid gland following RT to the neck using single-photon emission computed tomography-computed tomography (SPECT-CT) and thyroid function tests (TFTs). Subjects and Methods: In this prospective study, 45 patients of the head-and-neck cancer, receiving RT with or without chemotherapy were investigated. Baseline TFTs and thyroid scans (on SPECT-CT) were done, and the same were repeated at the completion of RT, at 3 and 6 months. Results: All patients received a minimum of 30 Gy to the whole neck. Baseline TFTs and thyroid scans were normal. None of them developed hypothyroidism clinical or subclinical (C/S) at the completion of RT. Six patients developed hypothyroidism (four subclinical, two clinical) at 3 months of the completion of treatment. At 6 months of follow-up 14 patients (31.1%) developed hypothyroidism (ten subclinical, four clinical) with P≤ 0.01. All patients having clinical or subclinical hypothyroidism had decreased uptake on thyroid scan. Patients having decreased uptake on thyroid scan only, with normal TFTs and no symptoms of hypothyroidism were zero at the completion of RT, 1 at 3 months follow-up, and seven at 6 months follow-up. Conclusions: Hypothyroidism (C/S) is an under-recognized but significant complication of therapeutic doses of RT to the neck. In our study, we recognized hypothyroidism as early as 3 months following the completion of RT. Hence, tests to evaluate functional and biochemical changes in the thyroid gland should be instituted as early as 3 months following RT.

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