Objective: Screening instruments may enhance the clinician's ability to detect elevated levels of distress in cancer patients, but these are often neither suitable nor effective for the routine of daily care for cancer patients. The newly developed Distress Barometer (DB) was intended to provide medical doctors with a convenient tool to interpret ‘at single glance’ the nature and the intensity of distress in ambulatory cancer patients. The DB, i.e. a combination of the Distress Thermometer (DT) and a new tool, the Colored Complaint Scale was developed to improve the specificity of distress screening without decreasing the sensitivity of the Distress Thermometer.
Methods: Distress was screened in a sample of 538 out-patients, using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and the new Distress Barometer (DB).
Results: The results confirm the validity of the Dutch version of the DT against the HADS as standard measure. In addition, it was found that the overall accuracy of the new DB was higher, with a sensitivity of 0.79 and a specificity of 0.81.
Conclusion: These results indicate that the Distress Barometer, which is convenient for both patients and doctors, can be used as an acceptable, brief and sufficiently accurate method for detecting distress in cancer patients. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.