Fear is commonly experienced by individuals newly diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer (PTC).
To explore the association between gender and fears of low-risk PTC disease progression, as well as its potential surgical treatment.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This single-center prospective cohort study was conducted at a tertiary care referral hospital in Toronto, Canada, and enrolled patients with untreated small low risk PTC (&lt;2 cm in maximal diameter) that was confined to the thyroid. All patients had a surgical consultation. Study participants were enrolled between May 2016 and February 2021. Data analysis was performed from December 16, 2022, to May 8, 2023.
Gender was self-reported by patients with low-risk PTC who were offered the choice of thyroidectomy or active surveillance. Baseline data were collected prior to the patient deciding on disease management.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Baseline patient questionnaires included the Fear of Progression–Short Form and Surgical Fear (referring to thyroidectomy) questionnaires. The fears of women and men were compared after adjustment for age. Decision-related variables, including Decision Self-Efficacy, and the ultimate treatment decisions were also compared between genders.
The study included 153 women (mean [SD] age, 50.7 [15.0] years) and 47 men (mean [SD] age, 56.3 [13.8] years). There were no significant differences in primary tumor size, marital status, education, parental status, or employment status between the women and men. After adjustment for age, there was no significant difference observed in the level of fear of disease progression between men and women. However, women reported greater surgical fear compared with men. There was no meaningful difference observed between women and men with respect to decision self-efficacy or the ultimate treatment choice.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this cohort study of patients with low-risk PTC, women reported a higher level of surgical fear but not fear of the disease compared with men (after adjustment for age). Women and men were similarly confident and satisfied with their disease management choice. Furthermore, the decisions of women and men were generally not significantly different. The context of gender may contribute to the emotional experience of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and its treatment perception.