How can we meet the information needs of patients with early stage papillary thyroid cancer considering radioactive iodine remnant ablation?
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In patients with early stage papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) who have had a thyroidectomy, the decision must be made to accept or reject radioactive iodine remnant ablation (RRA). Counselling patients about this decision can be challenging, given the medical evidence uncertainties and the complexity of related information. Although physicians are the primary source of medical information for patients considering RRA, some patients have a desire for supplemental information from sources such as the internet. Yet, thyroid cancer resources on the internet are of variable quality, and some may not be applicable to the individual case. We have developed a computerized educational tool [called a decision aid (DA)], directed to patients with early stage papillary thyroid cancer, and intended as an adjunct to physician counselling, to relay evidence-based medical information on disease prognosis and the choice to accept or reject RRA. DAs are tools used to inform patients about available treatment options and have been utilized in oncologic decision-making. We tested our web-based DA in fifty patients with early stage PTC and found that it improved medical knowledge. Furthermore, participants found the technical usability of the tool acceptable. We are currently conducting a randomized controlled trial comparing the use of the DA plus usual care to usual care alone to confirm the educational benefit of the website and examine its impact on the decision-making process. In the future, DAs may play an expanded role as an adjunct to physician counselling in the care of patients with thyroid cancer.
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