'Decision aid' may inform people with early-stage thyroid cancer of their options

Researchers at the University of Toronto recently made a computer-based educational program to better inform people with papillary thyroid cancer of their treatment options.

The tool, whose creation is detailed in the journal Clinical Endocrinology, specifically deals with the options surrounding radioactive iodine remnant ablation (RRA) for individuals who have had a thyroidectomy to treat early-stage papillary thyroid cancer.

Papillary carcinomas are the most common manifestation of the disease in the U.S. At least 70 percent of thyroid cancer diagnoses made each year are papillary carcinomas, according to the Columbia University Department of Surgery.

The institution notes that most people can be cured of this form of thyroid cancer by the complete removal of the thyroid gland. However, depending on the extent of the disease, some physicians may suggest the use of RRA afterward.

Radioactive iodine, which is administered in pill form, is absorbed by any remaining bits of thyroid tissue after a thyroidectomy. This follow-up treatment is designed to prevent recurrence of thyroid cancer, but much of the information that is currently available to patients about RRA can be incomplete or contradictory.

In the new study, endocrinologists and radiologists set out to rectify this situation by creating simple, user-friendly software that lays out the risks, benefits and side effects of RRA.

In particular, the tool was created as a supplement for individuals who did not consult authoritative, Internet-based Web resources, as well as those who did but could not apply what they learned to their particular case.

Researchers tested the "decision aid" on 50 participants diagnosed with early-stage papillary thyroid cancer. The team found that the software increased patients' medical knowledge of papillary carcinomas, thyroidectomy and RRA. Most participants rated the tool as acceptably user-friendly, the group noted.

They concluded that among individuals with adequate knowledge of computer skills, such aids may help inform patients of their post-thyroidectomy treatment options.

Approximately 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with thyroid cancer every year, according to the National Cancer Institute.