Objective: The evaluation of psychological distress in cancer patients recently entered oncologic clinical practice. The objective of this study was to evaluate the role of clinical interview within psycho-oncologic assessment.
Methods: Questionnaires assessing distress (PDI), psychopathology (MHQ, HADS) and needs (NEQ) and a subsequent clinical interview were proposed to 320 consecutive inpatients from the Oncology Department of Careggi Hospital in Florence.
Results: The clinical interview made it possible to evaluate a significant percentage of patients (30%) who did not fill in questionnaires and to detect the presence of distress in 39 (13.7%) patients who would not have received a diagnosis in a protocol for the assessment of distress based only on questionnaires. It also provided the possibility to ask for help or to receive clinical support to a high percentage of patients (44.1%) who had not requested to speak to a psychologist through the questionnaires (NEQ). Moreover, 25% of patients who received prolonged clinical support had a low score in tests detecting distress, indicating that the opportunity for therapeutic support can emerge during a clinical interview, also in the absence of relevant symptoms detected by questionnaires.
Conclusions: The use of more than one questionnaire in the assessment of distress and psychopathology is associated with reduced compliance and redundant information. On the other hand, clinical interview has a pivotal role in clinical evaluation and access to psychological support. We conclude that optimal efficacy of programs assessing distress in cancer patients is reached when a single questionnaire evaluating distress is associated with a clinical interview. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.