Receiving a diagnosis of cancer may be associated with increased psychosocial distress. Without objective assessments, healthcare professionals tend to underestimate psychological distress, and fail in the recognition, triage and referral of distressed patients. The specific aims of this study are to identify the level and the nature of the distress.
A descriptive prospective design has been used to analyze the data of distress thermometer (DT) in initial visits in the cancer unit. Data collection was conducted by nurses over a six month period. The variables studied were: age, sex, type of tumor, intensity and causes of distress.
39 patients answered the DT screening tool. On average, the participants were 58.1 years old and 64% of them were female. The most frequent diagnoses reported were breast cancer (38%) and colon cancer (26%). 41 % rated over the cut point of DT (>4) and were referred to psycho-oncology attention. Only the 48 % attended to the psychologist after referral despite the most frequent causes of distress were physical problems (85%) and emotional problems (70%). Finally, there were a statistically significant association between intensity of distress and emotional problems (r = 0,648; p < 0, 001) but not with other problematic areas (physical, family, spiritual or practical).
Psychosocial distress in recently diagnosed cancer patients seems to be related with emotional problems. It is important to evaluate and manage emotional distress in these patients to improve their quality of life and refer patients to the psychologist when it is necessary.
Clinical trial identification
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All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.