Cancer develops in patients radiated decades ago - FOX 32 News Chicago

Cancer develops in patients radiated decades ago

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Radiation was used to treat everything from tonsillitis to acne 60 or 70 years ago. Now, many of the children who were radiated back then are paying a price.

“I was radiated, I think, about four times,” said thyroid cancer patient Atara Levin.

When Levin was 4-years-old, she received radiation treatments for a skin fungus. At the time, she lost her hair. Not until 40 years later did she learn of more serious consequences.

“We discovered I had cancer of the thyroid,” added Levin.

Levin’s story is a familiar one, especially for numerous patients who received radiation treatments at the now-closed Michael Reese Hospital.

“It was kind of an epidemic, epidemic proportions almost, of this cancer, developing in kids,” said Dr. Raymon Grogan of the University of Chicago.

In part because of its proximity to Michael Reese Hospital, much or the early research regarding radiation and thyroid cancer was done at the University of Chicago.

“They started to look back and say, what was it about these kids that was similar, these kids that got cancer versus kids that weren't getting cancer,” added Dr, Grogan.

One study involving almost 1,500 children radiated at Michael Reese projected that one out of ten would end up with thyroid cancer, usually within ten years, but sometimes decades later.

“If you have a history of head and neck radiation as a child, you have a ten percent risk of developing thyroid cancer sometime in your life,” said Dr, Grogan.

Other types of cancer, including brain cancer, are possible, so people who were radiated as children should let their doctors know about it.

“There’s different kinds of tumors that can arise, you can get salivary tumors, from head and neck radiation. There’s not a lot of scans or tests they necessarily need to do, the best thing to do is just talk to their doctor,” said Dr, Brian Kim of Rush University Medical Center.

Thyroid cancer is rarely fatal, although it often re-appears after treatment. Following surgery, Atara Levin said she's fine.

“I'm home free,” said Levin.

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