Thyroid cancer is the fastest rising cancer, especially in women. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for most forms of thyroid cancer leading to an overall excellent prognosis for thyroid cancer patients. This has led to some providers to refer to thyroid cancer as the “good cancer” to their patients. However, there is increasing awareness that patients and physicians often differ in how they perceive the seriousness and consequences of a particular illness. Less information is available regarding how these differences affect the interaction of patients with their health care providers and others. The goal of this study was to determine the reaction of selected patients with thyroid cancer to perceptions of their illness as conveyed to them, directly or indirectly, by health care providers, their family members, and their support network.
THE FULL ARTICLE TITLE:
Randle RW, et al Papillary thyroid cancer: the good and bad of the “good cancer.” Thyroid 2017;27:902-7. Epub June 12, 2017.
SUMMARY OF THE STUDY
Study patients were already participating in a thyroid cancer clinical trial. All had a preoperative diagnosis or suspicion of papillary thyroid cancer on the basis of ultrasound and thyroid biopsy. Patients were interviewed by 10 trained interviewers who were not members of the clinical staff. Interviews were conducted at the time of the patient’s pre-thyroidectomy clinic visit, 2 weeks after surgery, and 6, 26, and 52 weeks post- thyroidectomy. “Good cancer” was a theme that emerged unprompted from the interviews at multiple time points.
A total of 31 participants with thyroid cancer (7 men and 24 women) underwent the 113 interviews that were included in the analysis. They ranged from 22 to 67 years in age. The average size of their cancers was 1.5 cm. In approximately half (46%) of their interviews, the theme of papillary thyroid cancer being widely considered to be a good cancer emerged unprompted from almost all (94%) of the interviewed participants. Discussion relating to papillary thyroid cancer being regarded as a good cancer was most common (50%) during the preoperative interview. A total of 14 participants brought up the theme of thyroid cancer being a good cancer during more than one interview.