What are the Facts for People Given Radiation (X-ray) Treatments as Children?

Between one and two million Americans received radiation treatments in childhood or adolescence between 1920 and 1960. The most common reasons for these treatments were:

  • enlarged thymus gland
  • acne
  • ringworm
  • enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • various chest conditions

The risk factor for developing thyroid cancer if you had childhood radiation treatments is between 2% and 7% as compared to .004% in the general population.

There have been cases of side effects from radiation treatments (not radioactive iodine treatments) reported as long as 45 years after treatment.

Most physicians agree that the thyroid gland of these patients should be checked annually.

Some physicians rely solely on physical (manual) examination of patients treated as children with radiation. Others prefer to perform scans or ultrasounds for nodules too small to detect manually that might be cancerous.

A person treated as a child with radiation can request that their medical records be sent to them by writing the hospital or clinic where they had the treatments. Ask for a record of how much each dose of radiation was as well as how often and over what period of time treatments were given.