Send to

Choose Destination
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018 Oct 1;144(10):887-896. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2018.1694.

Association of Preferences for Papillary Thyroid Cancer Treatment With Disease Terminology: A Discrete Choice Experiment.

Author information

The University of Sydney, Wiser Healthcare, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
The University of Sydney, Sydney School of Public Health, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
The University of Sydney, Sydney Health Literacy Lab, New South Wales, Australia.
Knowledge and Evaluation Research Unit, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism, and Nutrition, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota.
Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice, Bond University, Queensland, Australia.



Given recent evidence of overdiagnosis and overtreatment of small papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs) and other low-risk cancers, strategies are needed to help patients consider less invasive treatment options.


To determine which factors influence treatment preferences for patients with PTC, and the trade-offs in treatment factors people are willing to accept, and to understand how terminology influences preferences and benefit-harm trade-offs.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

Preferences in PTC treatment were evaluated using a discrete choice experiment (DCE) conducted as a web-based survey using an existing public online research panel. Participants were randomized to receive 1 of 2 frames of information based on the terminology used to describe the condition: "cancer" or "lesion." Participants chose between 3 treatment options for PTC (thyroidectomy, hemithyroidectomy, and active surveillance). Analyses were conducted using a mixed logit model.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

The main outcome variable was treatment preference; attributes of treatment options and sociodemographic characteristics were explanatory variables.


The DCE was completed by 2054 participants (993 [48.3%] men and 1061 [51.7%] women; mean [SD] age, 46.0 [16.5] years) with no history of thyroid cancer. Participants preferred options with less frequent follow-up, lower out-of-pocket costs, lower chances of having voice and calcium level problems, and a lower risk of developing invasive thyroid cancer and of dying of thyroid cancer. When trading benefits against harms, participants were willing to accept a higher number of extra patients experiencing adverse effects to avoid a thyroid cancer death when the condition was described as a cancer compared with a lesion. Specifically, participants for whom the condition was described as a cancer were willing to accept more patients requiring lifelong medication (mean, 273; 95% CI, 207-339 vs mean, 98; 95% CI, 66-131), experiencing calcium problems (mean, 110; 95% CI, 77-144 vs mean, 56; 95% CI, 55-58), and fatigue (mean, 958; 95% CI, 691-1224 vs mean, 469; 95% CI, 375-564). For both the cancer and lesion terminology, health literacy consistently was associated with preferences for treatment options. Those with lower health literacy had a significantly lower preference for less invasive treatment options.

Conclusions and Relevance:

This study makes an important contribution to understanding how attributes of treatment options, terminology, and patient characteristics, in particular health literacy, influence treatment decision making for PTC. As a result of increasing evidence of the indolent nature of PTC and other low-risk cancers, strategies to deal with potential overtreatment are critically needed.

Trial Registration:

Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12617000066381.

[Available on 2019-08-22]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems
Loading ...
Support Center