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Q&A: Second-hand radiation risk?

Consumer Reports News: May 11, 2010 05:08 AM

I’m receiving radiation treatment for cancer. Does this expose my spouse or family to any danger? —E.E., Wayne, N.J. 

That depends on the treatment. External beam radiation, a common treatment in which you sit or lie in the path of an X-ray beam, doesn’t pose any danger since that type of radiation ceases to exist after the exposure. Radioactive implants used for prostate cancer, on the other hand, do carry some risks, particularly to small children during the week or so after implantation. Your doctor may advise you to have no grandchildren on your lap. Radioactive drugs such as technetium, strontium, or iodine can cause you to emit radiation through your skin, feces, and urine. You may be advised to use eating utensils and towels separate from your housemates, avoid kissing and sex, and flush the toilet multiple times after use, in addition to avoiding contact with children or pregnant women. 

If you’ve had a recent procedure using a radioactive isotope, you may be questioned before boarding an airplane, so carry a note from your doctor.

Learn more about radiation therapy for treating prostate cancer (subscribers only). 

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