The Impact of Thyroid Cancer and Post-Surgical Radioactive Iodine Treatment on the Lives of Thyroid Cancer Survivors: A Qualitative Study Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Adjuvant treatment with radioactive iodine (RAI) is often considered in the treatment of well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma (WDTC). We explored the recollections of thyroid cancer survivors on the diagnosis of WDTC, adjuvant radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment, and decision-making related to RAI treatment. Participants provided recommendations for healthcare providers on counseling future patients on adjuvant RAI treatment. METHODS: We conducted three focus group sessions, including WDTC survivors recruited from two Canadian academic hospitals. Participants had a prior history of WDTC that was completely resected at primary surgery and had been offered adjuvant RAI treatment. Open-ended questions were used to generate discussion in the groups. Saturation of major themes was achieved among the groups. FINDINGS: There were 16 participants in the study, twelve of whom were women (75%). All but one participant had received RAI treatment (94%). Participants reported that a thyroid cancer diagnosis was life-changing, resulting in feelings of fear and uncertainty. Some participants felt dismissed as not having a serious disease. Some participants reported receiving conflicting messages from healthcare providers on the appropriateness of adjuvant RAI treatment or insufficient information. If RAI-related side effects occurred, their presence was not legitimized by some healthcare providers. CONCLUSIONS: The diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer significantly impacts the lives of survivors. Fear and uncertainty related to a cancer diagnosis, feelings of the diagnosis being dismissed as not serious, conflicting messages about adjuvant RAI treatment, and treatment-related side effects, have been raised as important concerns by thyroid cancer survivors.


  • Sawka, Anna M
  • Goldstein, David P
  • Brierley, James D
  • Tsang, Richard W
  • Rotstein, Lorne
  • Ezzat, Shereen
  • Straus, Sharon
  • George, Susan R
  • Abbey, Susan
  • Rodin, Gary
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann
  • Gafni, Amiram Jacob
  • Thabane, Lehana
  • Goguen, Jeannette
  • Naeem, Asima
  • Magalhaes, Lilian

publication date

  • 2009