Thyroid cancer survivors report lower quality of life than people who survive deadlier cancers, a new study finds.
About 98 percent of thyroid cancer patients survive five years and more than 95 percent survive a decade, leading some to call it a “good cancer.”
Moreover, thyroid cancer, which is on the rise, could soon account for 10 percent of all cancer survivors in the United States, researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center said.
The study included nearly 1,200 thyroid cancer survivors, average age 48, from across the United States and Canada. They were given a questionnaire that assessed their physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being. The survivors reported an average of 5.5 out of 10 on a quality-of-life scale. This was lower than the average of 6.75 among survivors of colon, breast and other types of cancer that require more intensive treatment and have worse prognoses, the study found.
Thyroid cancer survivors have a high rate of disease recurrence and require lifetime cancer surveillance, which could help explain their lower quality-of-life scores, the researchers said.
“I think we all have this fear of cancer that has been ingrained in our society. So, no matter what the prognosis is, we’re just terrified that we have a cancer. I think this shows that,” study co-author Dr. Raymon Grogan, an assistant professor of surgery, said in a university news release.
Younger, female and less educated thyroid cancer survivors tended to have the lowest quality-of-life scores. Many had participated in survivor groups, the researchers noted.
After five years, however, the researchers found that quality-of-life scores gradually increased.
The study was published recently in the journal Thyroid.
Grogan wants to continue following the study participants and develop a tool to help doctors assess the mental health of thyroid cancer survivors.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about thyroid cancer.