Looking at this story it says that:
According to a study conducted by the Cancer Institute Hospital in Tokyo from 1995 to 2009, a total of 283 papillary thyroid cancer patients chose not to have surgery and opted instead to be monitored on a regular basis. None died nor saw the cancer spread, according to the study.
I see that this article, perhaps referencing the above survey, says something slightly different:
Since 2005, the Japanese group has treated all high-risk patients with total thyroidectomy (TT) plus radioactive iodine (RAI), while low-risk patients with unilateral PTC are given the option of either TT plus RAI or "less-than-total" thyroidectomy (LTT) — either lobectomy or subtotal thyroidectomy — along with routine central lymph-node dissection.
As far as I understand the technical terms, LTT in the second article implies removing the offending nodule, not the complete gland, which would suggest surgery, but on a smaller scale, whereas the first article implies people just get regular screening and no surgery.
So, what is the truth?