Background: Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing malignancy in the United States. Previous studies have shown a decrease in quality of life (QoL) after the treatment of thyroid cancer. To date, there have been no studies assessing physician perceptions regarding how a diagnosis of thyroid cancer affects QoL. Based on this and other findings from our study, we aim to assess physician perceptions on the effect of thyroid cancer on QoL.
Materials and methods: Physicians were recruited from two national organizations comprised physicians focusing on thyroid cancer. A 37-question survey was administered evaluating physician's perceptions of thyroid cancer patient satisfaction in various aspects of treatment, complications, and overall effects on QoL. QoL responses were categorized into overall QoL, physical, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being.
Results: One hundred five physicians completed the survey. Physician's estimates of patient's overall QoL after thyroid cancer treatment was similar to overall QoL reported by patients. However, medical physicians overestimated the decrease in thyroid cancer survivor's QoL in several subcategories including physical, psychological, and social (P < 0.05). Both surgeons and medical physicians underestimated the percentage of patients with reported symptoms of temporary and permanent voice changes, temporary dry mouth, cold/heat sensitivity, and temporary and permanent hypocalcemia (P = 0.01-0.04).
Conclusions: Physicians have a varied estimation of the detrimental impact of thyroid cancer treatment on QoL. In addition, physicians underestimated the amount of physical symptoms associated with thyroid cancer treatments. Increased physician awareness of the detrimental effects of a thyroid cancer diagnosis on QoL should allow for a more accurate conversation about expected outcomes after thyroid cancer treatment.
Keywords: Physician perceptions; Quality of life; Thyroid cancer; Thyroid carcinoma.
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