Although surgery has been the mainstay of treatment for patients with well-differentiated thyroid cancer, the extents of thyroid resection and lymph node dissection adopted in Japan differ from those in other countries. Furthermore, regarding the indications for postoperative radiation therapy and hormonal therapy, and treatment modalities for cancer recurrence, there are marked discrepancies between Japan and other countries. A questionnaire survey was thus conducted among domestic and overseas thyroid surgeons to ascertain the actual treatment policy for well-differentiated thyroid cancer in Japan and various foreign countries. For small papillary carcinomas of 2.0 cm or less (T1), thyroid resection was more extensive in foreign countries than in Japan, although the extent of lymph node dissection was limited in the former. For large papillary carcinomas exceeding 3.0 cm (T2), on the other hand, total thyroidectomy was the treatment of first choice for all overseas respondents, but of only 20% in Japan, despite lymph node dissection being more extensive in Japan than in other countries. Overseas surgeons were much more likely to favor postoperative TSH suppression therapy and high-dose 131I therapy. For recurrence following surgery for papillary thyroid cancer, both domestic and overseas respondents indicated surgical resection to be the most common treatment option, and favored high-dose 131I therapy as well. In Japan, however, high-dose 131I therapy is available only in a few institutions. Such limited indications for high-dose 131I therapy in Japan may reflect a discrepancy in the frequency of total thyroidectomy, a prerequisite for postoperative high-dose 131I therapy, between Japan and other countries. This is the first questionnaire study conducted in both Japan and other countries in relation to treatment modalities for thyroid cancer. The results reveal that there is a clear disparity in treatment policies between Japan and foreign countries.
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