The psychological impact of a specialist referral and telephone intervention on male cancer patients: a randomised controlled trial



Objective: To examine the psychological impact of a referral and telephone intervention, involving information and support, among men with colorectal cancer (CRC) and prostate cancer.

Methods: 571 newly diagnosed male CRC (N=182) and prostate (N=389) cancer patients were block-randomised into three arms. In the two intervention arms, the specialist actively referred men to a Cancer Helpline. In Active Referral—4 outcalls, men received calls from the Helpline within 1 week of diagnosis, and at 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months post-diagnosis. In Active Referral—1 outcall, men received one call within 1 week of diagnosis. In the control arm, Passive Referral, patients were referred to the Helpline, with contact at their initiative. Participants completed scales measuring cancer-specific distress, anxiety and depression at study entry, then 4, 7 and 12 months post-diagnosis. Random effects regression models compared rates of change in these outcomes between study arms.

Results: At the first outcall, over 85% of participants in both intervention arms discussed treatment management and psychological/emotional issues. Among the Active Referral—4 outcalls arm, over 80% of participants discussed psychological/emotional issues at each call. Mean changes over time in cancer-specific distress, anxiety and depression were similar between study arms.

Conclusion: Although men were willing to discuss psychosocial issues via the telephone, we found no psychological impact. Further research is required to determine whether the intervention is more effective for patients who do not have psychosocial support or have unmet information needs. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.