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Shedding some rays

Thursday, August 21, 2008 - 01:06 PM

Hey Folks,

We're looking into a possible story on thymic irradiation. What's that you ask? It's when your thymus is treated with x-ray therapy - in most cases to reduce its size. But, while it was a popular procedure for kids with respiratory ailments in the twenties, the thirties and even up through the fifties it doesn't happen so much anymore.

So now we're hoping you can help. Here's how: we're on the hunt for folks who've been irradiated and remember. Did grandma ever tell you a story about the time her thymus was xrayed? No? Then what about your great Uncle Mortimer? We want to hear their stories. If you know someone who's got one or have a thymic irradiation tale to relate then let us know!


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Comments [14]

Brenda Brenay from Michigan

I am a 64 year old female diagnosed in May of 2013 with Late Onset Chronic Progressive MS that presented after a major lumbar surgery.
I also had my thymus irradiated as an infant. The hospital is now gone and all records with it.
Since we know that T-cells play a major component in our immune system, it is worth investigating if there are others with MS that involve infant thymus irriadiaton also. We certainly see the link with thyroid and breast cancer and I believe we will also see a link with MS as we get the info out there.
Please view my website at to see my journey and how Stem Cells, metal detox, acupuncture and nutrition has MS on the run. I have taken my life back!
My goal is to help share alternative therapies that are out there and available to us all.
Here is to hope!
Brenda Brenay Ph.D.
Clinical Nutritionist ~ Retired

Jan. 29 2014 09:55 AM
Lois VanDress

I was irradiated as an infant at Northside Hospital in Youngstown Ohio in 1955. I would love more information about this, so please let me know how to contact you.
I received a letter in my twenties warning me that I had this treatment done. My mother remembered nothing about it. I now am 57 and have a series of auto-immune diseases--Multiple Sclerosis (with lesions in my cervical spinal cord), interstitial cystitis, fibromyalgia, and recently developed lymphedema.

I have had very little luck with finding a doctor who is interested in following up on thyroid testing or if radiation to the thymus could have messed up my immune system. Would love to find more research.
Lois VanDress

Jul. 23 2013 03:34 AM
Dawn Gaye from USA

I have a compelling story but I need to know the owner of this page still needs info before I go thru it all. When I was 2 months to 2 yrs I would have trouble breathing, cough, turn blue, pass out. It was decided that my "huge thymus" was to blame and I had a series of radiation treatments to shrink it. I have had a lifetime of repercussions. I've had a compromised immune system and ended up with an enormous lesion in my spine directly in the area where the radiation took place.
Contact e privately if this project is going to happen.

Jun. 13 2013 12:24 AM
Ruthanne Greenwood from Newport Beach, CA

Indeed, radiation was the top of the line treatment for children born with an enlarged thysus. Make us wonder about all the 'new' therapies researched today: botox treatments, cancer radiation, etc. 'FIRST, do no harm' is not known for may years after an innovative treatment.

I was irradiated for an enlarged thymus as an infant in the early 1940s. In 2000, my thyroid was removed for a small speck of papillary carcinoma as my thyroid was had numerous nodules. It was determined that it was safer to remove the thyroid rather than biopsy several of many nodules maybe missing the few that had already become cancerous.

Without a thyroid, it's a constant testing to make sure the levels are correct or I could slip into a coma. But how grateful I am to be alive!

Oct. 13 2012 07:55 PM
greg from fredericksburg va

Had the radiation packs in Wheeling, WV as a baby for coughing. So far no issues, but have friends in Everett PA who had it too and they are on thyroid meds. According to them a Dr in Cumberland MD was big on the use of this. He later died and his son destroyed all his records. Just had a friend send me this link

Jun. 11 2012 09:35 AM
dawngaye from SC

I had them and I am now 58, a life time of physical problems. I lived in NJ and went to Johns Hopkins as well. I wonder if they would have records... I'm curious as to exactly what was done.
Blog owner - was anything done with your research? a report, etc. Very curious about other's experiences. Thank you!

Jan. 24 2011 12:08 PM

My cousin recently had his thyroid massively irradiated after it went severely hyper and put him in the hospital. He is an actor and comedian, and had a good sense of humor about the whole incident, and was joking about having to miss his sister's wedding shower as he would be glowing for a couple days after (he was actually told to avoid others due to his radioactivity). He might be a good person to talk to if you're still interested, just drop me an email.

Oct. 08 2008 12:01 AM
Koreen Clay

I had a cyst under my chin that was treated in the early 60's with radiation at a hospital in Cumberland, MD. Never helped with the swelling which has never really gone away. Had the thyroid scan in the 70's -- that was negative. I'm 58 now and have always wondered what the ultimate repercussions would be.

Sep. 06 2008 04:08 PM

I just wanted to say interesting choice of chest xray to include nipple piercings.

Sep. 03 2008 08:12 PM

I believe my mother had this done. Is too late to get her involved with your show? I enjoy your radio program, and keep up the good work.

Regards from Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
Sam LeBlanc

Aug. 29 2008 11:23 AM
Ellen Sugg

Both my younger brother and I had our thymus "treated" with radiation as infants in Chicago. Our younger siblings are significantly taller than we are:
E 5'5' female (1950)
C 5'9' male (1951)
MJ 6'1' male (1953)
MK 5'8' female (1955)
R 6'2' male (1961)

My younger brother is fine. I was treated for goiter and hypothryroid from the age of 22 until 1989 when my thryoid we determined to be cancerous and was removed. Since radioactive iodine treatment, I've been cancer free. And as medicine in MN seems to be more conservative than in IL or NC, have not been subjected to the repeated scans of my non-existent thyroid that they predicted in NC. From 1972 to 1989, it seemed like I was at the doctor all the time. There were frequent puzzling low grade fevers - which were often treated with antibiotics - because I was convinced that I had sinus infections. When I had a real sinus infection a few years after the thyroidectomy, I was embarrassed that I'd been fussing about my minor symptoms all those years. After the surgery the fevers vanished and I now realize they were likely caused by the very slow growing cancer in my thyroid. I now make an annual trip to the doctor. I've finally lost the weight I gained around the time of the surgery and feel better than I ever did as a young woman.

Aug. 29 2008 11:16 AM
Lulu Miller

Frederick & Alta - thanks so much for your comments!

Frederick, if possible we'd love to chat with you a bit about your experience. What's the best way to reach you? You can drop us a line to let us know at

Aug. 25 2008 09:59 AM
Frederick Otto

Hello RL!
Had an enlarged thymus reduced by radiation in the early 50's. I'm now 60 and have no working thyroid. Thanks to the "60 minutes scare" in the 70's, I went through the tests for thyroid cancer and was clear. I have had sarcoidosis for the last twenty years manefested in the lungs. Since sarcoidosis and the thymus are thought to be related to the immune system, I've conjured to many physicians the notion of an association. This is usually followed by, "interesting idea", "could I have the next patient please?"

Love your show & am pleased that someone's curiosity has been sparked to investigate this primitive procedure.

I remain,
Frederick Otto

Aug. 24 2008 06:43 AM

Hi! My neighbor at the store next door to mine just ran in to show your article to me since she & I were talking about my radium rod experience just this morning!
I am a 57 year old woman. Until last month when I saw a new physician, I have NEVER had a doctor who knew anything about this topic. This is the story as told to me by my mother & grandmother: It was in the early 50's (radiation was still our friend)and I had some growths in my sinuses that were causing concern. A specialist in White Plains, NY (we lived in New Jersey) sent me to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to have radium treatments. This was supposed to be an experimental treatment at the time. I was around 4 or 5 years old and have probably blocked these memories so the only thng I remember are the car rides. I was told that I was put into a small lead lined room with radium rods put up my nose and irradiated. I don't know how many times this happened but I believe there were several trips to Hopkins. I guess they managed to destroy the growths in my sinuses because they aren't there now. I have looked online for more information about these "treatments" but have been unable to find anything.
During my new patient interview, my wonderful new doctor happened to ask me if I have or had any sinus problems. I hadn't thought about the radium treatments for a while but, thankfully, my memory was jogged and when I told her about my experience she just put her head in her hands and commented, "did Hopkins try to irradiate everybody?" I was shocked that she KNEW...not only that but she also has about 10 patients that went through similar experiences there!! The Dr. immediately sent me for thyroid testing which I am in the process of doing now. I know that I now have a greater risk of thyroid cancer but I'm not sure what other problems may be caused by the irradiation. At least now I know that I have a well informed doctor who will keep an eye on me for any possible consequences due to the experience....AND I no longer have to try to explain this to a disinterested doctor who just looks at me and ends the conversation with, "Huh?....Nope, never heard of that."
Alta Lopez

Aug. 21 2008 05:06 PM

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