Patient Experiences With Thyroid Nodules: A Qualitative Interview Survey

Matthew R. Naunheim, Manuela von Sneidern, Molly N. Huston, Okenwa C. Okose, Amr H. Abdelhamid Ahmed, Gregory W. Randolph, Mark G. Shrime

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To qualitatively explore the broad set of preferences and attitudes patients have about thyroid nodules, which influence the decision-making process. Study Design: A descriptive survey design was administered as interviews. Setting: Outpatient thyroid surgery clinic. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 20 patients presenting for initial evaluation of thyroid nodules at a surgeon's office. Probative, open-ended questions were posed regarding diagnosis, treatment, risk attitudes, and the decision-making process. Thematic analysis was used to develop code-transcribed interviews, and an iterative refinement resulted in underlying themes. Results: During the diagnostic process, patients integrated emotional responses (fear, anxiety, and shock) with rationale concerns (likelihood of cancer, risk assessment), and ultimately relied heavily on expert opinion and recommendation. Contextualization with other personal or familial health problems served as helpful touchstones for decision-making. Overtreatment and overdiagnosis were not commonly discussed. When thinking about potential therapies, there was a strong bias to action rather than surveillance among patients. Surgical risk and the possibility of lifelong medication, however, were strong motivators for a subset of patients to seek nonsurgical alternatives. Conclusion: Patients describe a decision-making process that incorporates emotional response and rational consideration of risks, contextualized within the personal experience and physician expertise. The bias for action and intervention is strong, and most patients strongly weighted physicians' recommendations. Themes from this qualitative analysis may serve as the backbone for future stated preference research pertaining to thyroid disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere39
JournalOTO Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • decision-making
  • patient preferences
  • preferences
  • thematic analysis
  • thyroid


Dive into the research topics of 'Patient Experiences With Thyroid Nodules: A Qualitative Interview Survey'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this