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Abstract

Background

Although psychosocial distress has been evaluated well in cancer entities like breast or prostate cancer, its impact on melanoma patients still needs to be characterized. The objectives of this study were to (i) evaluate psychosocial distress in melanoma patients using an expert rating instrument [basic documentation for psycho-oncology short version (PO-Bado SF)]; (ii) determine associated demographic and clinical variables; and (iii) assess the acceptance of using PO-Bado SF as a routine procedure in a skin cancer unit.

Methods

A cross-sectional group of 696 melanoma patients was recruited. During the routine contact, doctors assessed the patients subjective distress using PO-Bado SF. Sociodemographic data, tumour data, treatment and the course of the disease were extracted from the patients' charts.

Results

PO-Bado SF was completed in 688 of 696 (99%) participating patients, revealing a high acceptance. In 51 (7%) patients, the PO-Bado SF cut-off score indicated the potential need of psychosocial support. Patients with previous or ongoing radiotherapy, a history of major surgery due to organ metastases, younger age and shorter time since diagnosis were considered significantly more distressed than patients without these criteria. Patients were most distressed by suffering from anxiety/worries and/or tensions. In younger patients emotional variables and other problems like social or family problems were deemed more relevant while functional limitations in daily living were reasons for higher distress in older patients.

Conclusion

PO-Bado SF is a useful, well-accepted, practical and economic screening tool to identify distressed melanoma patients. Although most melanoma patients seem to cope well with their disease, special attention should be given to young patients in the first years after initial diagnosis and to patients with advanced disease, radiotherapy and major surgery due to their disease. Combination of expert rating tools with self-report screening instruments could further characterize the specific sources of distress to optimize psychosocial support.