How not saying ‘cancer’ for low-risk thyroid cancer may affect treatment preferences, patient anxiety

Bottom Line: Could removing "cancer" from the terminology for low-risk small papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs) reduce patients' anxiety so they consider less invasive treatment than surgery and avoid possible overtreatment for what can be indolent tumors? An online survey study of 550 Australian men and women without thyroid cancer suggests the answer is "maybe." Total and partial surgical removal of the thyroid are the most common management approaches for patients with PTC, but those procedures come with surgical risk, lifetime medication management and anxiety. In the study, when hypothetical scenarios described PTC as a lesion or abnormal cells, survey respondents were more likely to pick nonsurgical options such as active surveillance and they reported lower levels of anxiety.

Authors: Kirsten McCaffery, Ph.D., the University of Sydney, New South Wales Australia, and coauthors

Related material available on the For The Media website:

— A podcast interview is available for listening and download on this page.

— The commentary, "The Evolving Nomenclature of Thyroid Cancer," by Andrew G. Shuman, M.D., University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor.

To Learn More: The full study is available on the For The Media website.

(doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.1272)

Editor's Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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