Decision-making on adjuvant radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment for early-stage papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) is complex because of uncertainties in medical evidence. Using a parallel, two-arm, randomized, controlled trial design, we examined the impact of a patient-directed computerized decision aid (DA) on the medical knowledge and decisional conflict in patients with early-stage PTC considering the choice of being treated with adjuvant RAI or not. The DA describes the rationale, possible risks and benefits, and the medical evidence uncertainty relating to the choice.
We recruited 74 patients with early-stage PTC after thyroidectomy. Participants were assigned by using 1:1 central computerized randomization to either the DA group with usual care (intervention) or usual care alone (control). Medical knowledge about PTC and RAI treatment (the primary outcome), as well as decisional conflict (a secondary outcome), were measured by using validated questionnaires, and the respective scores were compared between groups.
Consistent with PTC epidemiology, 83.8% (62 of 74) of the participants were women, and the mean age was 45.8 years (range, 19 to 79 years). Medical knowledge about PTC and RAI treatment was significantly greater and decisional conflict was significantly reduced in the DA group compared with the control group (respective P values < .001). The use of adjuvant RAI treatment was not significantly different between groups (DA group, 11 of 37 [29.7%]; controls, seven of 37 [18.9%]; P = .278).
A computerized DA improves informed decision making in patients with early-stage PTC who are considering adjuvant RAI treatment. DAs are useful for patients facing decisions subject to medical evidence uncertainty.