What do 1281 distress screeners tell us about cancer patients in a community cancer center?

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Abstract

Objective: The 2008 Institute of Medicine's Report, Cancer Care for the Whole Patient (IOM, 2008), recommends screening cancer patients for distress. Cancer programs throughout the United States are struggling to achieve this standard. The IOM report indicates that only 14% of 1000 randomly selected American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) members and eight of 15 National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) centers reported screening for distress in at least some of their patients [J Natl Compr Cancer Netw 2007;5:99–103]. Without adequate screening, distress often goes unnoticed by cancer professionals and there is little information about the prevalence of distress. The main objective of this article is to present data from 1281 distress screenings completed by patients treated within a community cancer center. Specifically, this article reports the intensity of distress, frequency of problem endorsement, and requests for specific psychosocial providers by cancer patients.

Method: Medical and radiation oncology patients completed a distress screener before their first physician appointment. The screening instrument included the Distress Thermometer, a symptom checklist, and a list of psychosocial providers that the patient could request to meet.

Results: Thirty-two percent of this sample rated distress above the threshold level. Worry was the most common problem endorsed followed by financial issues. Emotional concerns were endorsed by 59% of the sample. The cancer dietitian was the psychosocial professional most frequently requested by patients.

Conclusion: Distress screening can be accomplished within a community cancer center but the provision of psychosocial services is difficult given the high volume of need. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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