November 11, 2015
2 min read

Thyroid cancer diagnosis, treatment linked to decreased quality of life

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Although thyroid cancer has high survival rates, a decrease in quality of life often accompanies its diagnosis and treatment, according to study findings published in Thyroid.

“Based on the paucity of literature on thyroid cancer survivorship, it seems that long-term survival for patients with thyroid cancer has been perceived in the past as a relatively benign experience, particularly when compared to survivors of other cancers,” the researchers wrote. “This perception is likely due to the fact that thyroid cancer has a good 5-year survival rate.”

Briseis Aschebrook-Kilfoy, PhD, MPH, MPhil, of the department of health studies at the University of Chicago, and colleagues evaluated 1,174 adults (89.9% women; mean age, 48 years) with thyroid cancer (mean time from diagnosis, 5 years) recruited from a multicenter collaborative network of clinics, national survivorship programs and social media to determine the effect of thyroid cancer on quality of life.

A quality-of-life assessment tool measuring physical, psychological, social and spiritual effects was completed by all participants. Researchers also collected data on demographics, medical comorbidities, tumor characteristics and treatment methods. Most participants were recruited from survivorship groups (79.2%).

The mean total quality-of-life score among participants was 5.56 on a worst-to-best scale of 0 to 10; subscores for different aspects of quality of life were 5.83 for physical, 5.03 for psychological, 6.48 for social and 5.16 for spiritual domains. Distress of initial diagnosis, distress of ablation, distress from surgery, fear of a second cancer and distress from withdrawal from thyroid hormone yielded the lowest individual quality-of-life scores.

Lower total quality-of-life scores (P < .001) and lower subscores (P < .001) were found among women compared with men. Compared with younger adults, older adults had higher total quality of life and statistically significant higher mean scores for physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being (P < .001); this remained after adjustment for age, sex, type of thyroid cancer and time from diagnosis.

Five years after diagnosis, quality of life gradually increased.

“By establishing a large and geographically diverse thyroid cancer survivorship cohort through collaboration with multiple institutions, we have the ability to confer a better understanding of how thyroid cancer impacts the physical, psychosocial and spiritual morbidity of survivors,” the researchers wrote. “This data will serve as the basis for longitudinal efforts to characterize [quality of life] in thyroid cancer survivors. Given the rapidly increasing number of thyroid cancer survivors, and the need for assessment tool development, integration and testing, this project will confer timely improvements in our understanding of thyroid cancer survivorship.” – by Amber Cox

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.