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Accuracy of the Danish version of the ‘distress thermometer’



Objective: Short screening instruments have been suggested to improve the detection of psychological symptoms. We examined the accuracy of the Danish version of the ‘Distress Thermometer’.

Methods: Between October 2008 and October 2009, 426 women with newly diagnosed primary breast cancer who were operated at the Breast Surgery Clinic of the Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, were eligible for this study. Of these, 357 participated (84%) and 333 completed a questionnaire. The distress thermometer was evaluated against the ‘hospital anxiety and depression scale’ (HADS). We also examined the women's wish for referral for psychological support.

Results: A cut-off score of 6 vs 7 (low:⩽6, high:⩾7) on the distress thermometer was optimal for confirming distress, with a sensitivity of 42%, a specificity of 93%, a positive predictive value (PPV) of 78% and a negative predictive value (NPV) of 73%. A cut-off score of 2 vs 3 was optimal for screening, with a sensitivity of 99%, a specificity of 36%, a PPV of 47% and a NPV of 99%. Of those who were distressed using the cut-off score of 2 vs 3 on the distress thermometer, 17% (n = 41) wished to be referred for psychological support and 57% (n = 140) potentially wanted a later referral.

Conclusion: The distress thermometer performed satisfactorily relative to the HADS in detecting distress in our study. A screening procedure in which application of the distress thermometer is a first step could be useful for identifying persons in need of support. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.