Analysis of Unmet Information Needs Among Patients With Thyroid Cancer

Amanda Silver Karcioglu, Vaninder K. Dhillon, Louise Davies, Brendan C. Stack, Gary Bloom, Gregory Randolph, Miriam N. Lango

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Counseling prior to thyroid cancer (TC) treatment is an essential component of informed consent. An informed patient affects treatment-related expectations and patient engagement, factors that contribute significantly to patient-reported quality-of-life outcomes. Objective: To describe experiences with pretreatment counseling among survivors of TC and to test factors associated with self-reported treatment meeting expectations. Design, Setting, and Participants: A cross-sectional survey was administered between October 18, 2019, and February 8, 2020, to members of ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association Inc, and to individuals accessing the public-facing ThyCa website. Survey respondents were asked 55 questions, including 4 free-text questions and 2 multiple-choice questions about pretreatment counseling. Main Outcomes and Measures: Respondents self-reported (1) their unmet information needs, (2) rates of treatment meeting expectations, and (3) rates of treatment understanding. A mixed-methods analysis was performed, including qualitative content analysis of free-text responses and multivariable logistic regression of factors associated with self-reported levels of treatment meeting expectations. Results: Of the 1412 survey respondents, 1249 were women (88.4%). The median age at diagnosis was 48 years (range, 18-85 years), and the median age at the time of survey completion was 60 years (range, 18-87 years). A total of 1259 respondents (89.2%) provided free-text responses to the question, "What would you tell someone newly diagnosed with your same condition?"Of these individuals, 526 (37.2%) reported inadequate pretreatment plan understanding and 578 (40.9%) reported that their treatment experience did not meet their expectations. Treatment met expectations for only 95 respondents (18.1%) reporting an inadequate pretreatment plan understanding. Of the 526 survivors of TC reporting a lack of understanding, 473 (90.0%) provided additional textual comments, most commonly in the categories of postoperative treatment, surveillance, and treatment effects. On multivariable logistic regression, self-reported failure to have an understanding of TC treatment was independently associated with failure of treatment to meet expectations (odds ratio, 5.1 [95% CI, 3.7-6.9]). Patients reporting a full understanding of their treatment plan were 5-fold more likely to indicate that their initial treatment experience was on par with expectations, independent of reported postoperative complications, age, sex, and other potential confounders. Conclusions and Relevance: In this survey study, a substantial proportion of survivors of TC reported inadequate pretreatment understanding. This gap in understanding was associated with high levels of self-reported failure of treatment to meet expectations, which in turn is associated in other studies with poorer patient-reported quality-of-life outcomes. These outcomes may be improved by addressing gaps in patient understanding so expectations more closely match TC diagnosis and treatment pathways..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-119
Number of pages10
JournalJAMA Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 9 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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