Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging Treatments


Our nuclear medicine team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center treats one of the highest volumes of patients with differentiated thyroid cancer in the United States.    

Imaging is vital in the diagnosis and management of thyroid cancer. Our specialists make many treatment decisions based on what they see on the diagnostic scans, making accurate imaging critically important. 

Diagnostic scans may include:

Make an Appointment

To find a nuclear medicine specialist, call 202-877-3627

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving Street, NW
Room GB01
Washington, DC 20010

Nuclear Medicine Therapy for Thyroid Cancer

Landing_page_ThyroidNuclear Medicine therapy for differentiated thyroid cancer uses I-131 radioiodine, and as discussed in the section entitled “Nuclear Medicine Imaging in Differentiated Thyroid Cancer ,” radioiodine I-131 therapy involves the oral administration of a much larger amount of radioactive iodine than for diagnostic scans with the intent of treating either normal remaining thyroid cancer tissue that the surgeon leaves behind or to treat suspect or known remaining thyroid cancer cells. Again the iodine is like the iodine that has been added to most table salts sold in the grocery stores. However, the difference is that the iodine is “radioactive,” which means that it emits an energy (e.g. gamma rays) that can kill thyroid cells.

Radioiodine (I-131) Therapy

Although the terms of ablation, treatment, and therapy are frequently used interchangeably, the American Thyroid Association defines the above terms based on the specific objectives. The use of the term, therapy, is used to apply to all types of radioiodine therapy without a specific objective.

  1. Remnant Ablation
  2. Adjuvant Treatment
  3. Treatment of Known Metastases (spread outside of the thyroid gland)

Remnant Ablation

Remnant ablation with I-131 refers to the destruction of any normal thyroid tissue that was left behind after the surgeon removed most of the patient’s thyroid gland. In fact, surgeons almost always leave behind thyroid tissue in order to minimize complications related to certain nerves and other glands.  I-131 remnant ablation is to destroy any remaining normal thyroid tissue in order to allow the chemical, thyroglobulin, to be used as a marker in the blood to monitor for any future return of the patient’s thyroid cancer. Thyroglobulin is a protein only made by thyroid tissue. Thus, if all normal thyroid tissue is destroyed, the patient’s physician (s) will be able obtain blood levels of thyroglobulin, and if these levels are present and/or increasing, this could be an early indication of recurrence. This in turn would allow the patient’s physician to further evaluate the patient and potentially treat earlier.

Adjuvant Treatment

Adjuvant treatment is the administration of I-131to decrease the risk of recurrence (i.e. return of the cancer) by destroying suspected, but unproven remaining cancer. 

Treatment of Known Metastases (spread outside of the thyroid gland)

I-131 treatment is therapy of known persistent cancer cells with the objectives may be to try to achieve completion elimination of the cancer cells(such as cure), to control the cancer so that does not become a problem (e.g. stabilization), or to decrease the cancer cells to alleviate a problem from the cancer (e.g. palliation).

Our Difference

Additional services include: