Online Information for Treatment for Low-Risk Thyroid Cancer: Assessment of Timeliness, Content, Quality, and Readability

J Cancer Educ. 2020 Feb 27. doi: 10.1007/s13187-020-01713-5. Online ahead of print.


The Internet is a key source of health information, yet little is known about resources for low-risk thyroid cancer treatment. We examined the timeliness, content, quality, readability, and reference to the 2015 American Thyroid Association (ATA) guidelines in websites about thyroid cancer treatment. We identified the top 60 websites using Google, Bing, and Yahoo for "thyroid cancer." Timeliness and content analysis identified updates in the ATA guidelines (n = 6) and engaged a group of stakeholders to develop essential items (n = 29) for making treatment decisions. Website quality and readability analysis used 4 validated measures: DISCERN; Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) benchmark criteria; Health on the Net Foundation certification (HONcode); and the Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM) method. Of the 60 websites, 22 were unique and investigated. Content analysis revealed zero websites contained all updates from the ATA guidelines and rarely (18.2%) referenced them. Only 31.8% discussed all 3 treatment options: total thyroidectomy, lobectomy, and active surveillance. Websites discussed 28.2% of the 29 essential items for making treatment decisions. Quality analysis with DISCERN showed "fair" scores overall. Only 29.9% of the JAMA benchmarks were satisfied, and 40.9% were HONcode certified. Readability analysis with the SAM method found adequate readability, yet 90.9% scored unsuitable in literacy demand. The overall timeliness, content, quality, and readability of websites about low-risk thyroid cancer treatment is fair and needs improvement. Most websites lack updates from the 2015 ATA guidelines and information about treatment options that are necessary to make informed decisions.

Keywords: American Thyroid Association; DISCERN; Health on the Net Foundation certification (HONcode); Internet resources; Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) benchmark criteria; Shared decision-making; Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM); Thyroid Cancer.