Thyroid Cancer Survivors Report Poor Quality of Life

doctor performing thyroid exam on female patient
doctor performing thyroid exam on female patient
Patients with thyroid cancer report worse quality of life than others diagnosed with more lethal cancers.

Quality of life appears to be poor for thyroid cancer survivors after diagnosis and treatment, as compared with those diagnosed with more lethal cancers, study results published in Thyroid indicate.

Increasing incidence, high survival rates, and earlier diagnoses are driving the increase in prevalence of thyroid cancer survivors, but little is known about the physical and psychosocial morbidity of the disease, according to background information in the study.

To address this gap in data, researchers recruited 1174 thyroid cancer survivors from a multicenter collaborative network of clinics, national survivorship groups, and social media. Physical, psychological, social, and spiritual  effects of the disease were evaluated using a validated quality-of-life assessment tool.

Nearly 90% of participants were women, and the mean age was 48 years.

On a 10-point scale, with 0 being the worst, thyroid cancer survivors reported a mean quality-of-life score of 5.56, which was worse than the mean score of 6.75 reported by survivors of other cancer types, including colorectal and breast cancer, that have poorer prognoses and more invasive treatments, according to the data.  

In the 4 sub-domains, thyroid cancer survivors reported scores of 5.83 for physical, 5.03 for psychological, 6.48 for social, and 5.16 for spiritual well-being.

“I think we all have this fear of cancer that has been engrained in our society,” study researcher Raymon Grogan, MD, assistant professor of surgery at University of Chicago Medicine, said in a press release. “So, no matter what the prognosis is, we’re just terrified that we have a cancer. I think this shows that.

The researchers also found that patients who were younger, female, and less educated, as well as those who participated in survivorship groups, reported even worse quality of life than other participants.

Five years after diagnosis, however, quality-of-life scores began to improve, according to the data.

The researchers noted that they plan to continue to follow study participants.

“The goal of this study is to turn it into a long-term, longitudinal cohort,” said Dr Grogan. “But, there was no way to do that with thyroid cancer because no one had ever studied quality of life or psychology of thyroid cancer before.”


Aschebrook-Kilfoy B, James B, Nagar S, et al. Risk Factors for Decreased Quality of Life in Thyroid Cancer Survivors: Initial Findings from the North American Thyroid Cancer Survivorship Study. Thyroid. 2015;doi:10.1089/thy.2015.0098.