January 30, 2022
A 26-year-old woman with thyroid cancer and lung metastasis sues TEPCO.

Tokyo Shimbun, January 19, 2022

Six young people who developed thyroid cancer after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are seeking to establish the responsibility of TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) in court. They have strong doubts that, despite the discovery of thyroid cancer in about 300 people who were children at the time of the accident, no causal link with the accident has been recognized, especially since a reduction in the number of examinations is being considered. “I don’t want this to continue as if nothing happened,” said a 26-year-old woman who lives in the Nakadôri area of central Fukushima Prefecture and is worried about her future after learning that her cancer has spread to her lungs.

17 years old “Why me?”

“The doctor told me there was something suspicious in my neck in addition to the shadow detected on my lungs. I can’t think about marriage, having a child, or anything else in the future,” she says quietly at home that morning of November 11 before heading to her part-time job.

She goes to the hospital once every three months. Her heart sinks when she sees a young child in the waiting room. “The cancer was detected during a test when I was asymptomatic. Reducing the test[1] may not save lives.”

She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in March 2013, just before she started her third year of high school, at age 17. “I was told that if I didn’t have surgery, I might not live until I was 23. I tried to believe that everything was okay, even though I kept asking myself, Why me?”

The plaintiff, who underwent two operations to remove her thyroid gland and will have to take medication for the rest of her life. medication for the rest of her life,
is in Fukushima Prefecture.

Two surgeries, a room like a prison cell

Her 57-year-old mother held back tears as she heard the diagnosis along with her daughter. Her daughter entered high school in April 2011, just after the nuclear accident. At first, she wore a mask to protect herself from inhaling radioactive material, but she soon stopped wearing it. She walked 40 minutes each way to school, and participated in outdoor physical education classes. Her mother’s mind was filled with regret: “If only we had evacuated,” she said.

The girl wanted to go to university in Tokyo, but her mother, worried about her health, prevented her from doing so, and she went to university in the nearby prefecture. However, six months later, she began to feel lethargic, tired and had irregular periods. So she was retested.

“There is a recurrence on the remaining lobe of the thyroid gland. There was also a shadow on the lung,” the doctor told her. “I am not cured,” she said, breaking down in tears with her mother. She dropped out of college at age 19 to focus on her treatment.

The two surgeries and tests were difficult trials to endure. During one test, the deeper the needle went into her throat, the more painful it was. She had to undergo three sessions of iratherapy[2]. 2] She was placed in isolation in a cell-like room where she tried to cope by looking out a leaded window.

…but now I want to look forward.

On the day of the coming-of-age ceremony, her playful daughter told her father that she was happy to be able to wear a kimono. Her mother was shocked to learn that their daughter had contemplated death. “I have cancer, I won’t live long,” she repeated to herself, half-joking. This breaks her mother’s heart: “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her.

Her cancer marker values are higher than before the operation. Because of fears of recurrence and metastasis, she has given up on the idea of a full-time job in her desired profession. But now she wants to look ahead. “If it wasn’t the accident, why are there so many children with thyroid cancer? Maybe there will be more in the future. I feel I have to do what I can now.

[1] Thyroid ultrasound examination of people living in Fukushima Prefecture who were under 18 years old at the time of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident is conducted by Fukushima Prefecture. The decrease in the number of examinations is under discussion; the examination would be a source of concern for the examinees, and these examinations possibly followed by surgery would be a source of overdiagnosis.
[2] Radioactive Iodine Treatment