To characterise potential fear of radiation exposure in a normal population of individuals who have volunteered to care for a radioactive family member or friend after outpatient radioimmunotherapy (RIT) treatment for cancer, and obtain their knowing and willing acceptance of the risk.
Over 750 carers of 300 patients confined to their homes for 1 week following outpatient iodine-131 rituximab RIT of lymphoma were interviewed by a nuclear medicine physicist according to a multi-visit integrated protocol designed to minimise radiation exposure, define risk and gain informed consent.
Median radiation exposure of carers was 0.49 mSv (range 0.01–3.7 mSv) which is below the Western Australian regulatory limit of 5 mSv for consenting adult carers of radioactive patients. After signing a declaration of consent, only 2 carers of 750 abrogated their responsibility and none of those who carried out their duties expressed residual concerns at the end of the exit interview with respect to their radiation exposure.
Fear of radiation exposure in a normal population may be characterised as a normal emotional response. In the special case of carers of radioactive patients, this fear may be successfully managed by rational, authoritative and empathic explanation to define the risk and gain willing acceptance within the context of domiciliary patient care.