Distress and Psychosocial Needs: Demographic Predictors of Clinical Distress After a Diagnosis of Cancer

Jessica L. Hamilton

Heather Kruse

Lauren Holcomb

Ronald Freche

distress, psychosocial needs, Screening, demographics, cancer
CJON 2018, 22(4), 390-397. DOI: 10.1188/18.CJON.390-397

Background: Patients with cancer have increased rates of clinical distress compared to healthy individuals. Programs are needed to screen patients for distress and make appropriate psychosocial referrals. 

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to describe the distress levels and psychosocial needs of a large, diverse sample of patients with cancer.

Methods: More than 1,200 adult patients, attending their second appointment with a medical or radiation oncologist, were screened for distress and psychosocial needs. Electronic health records were reviewed to collect demographic data.

Findings: Almost half of the sample reported a clinically meaningful level of distress. Younger age, single status, and female gender were significant predictors of a greater distress score and/or more psychosocial needs. Results suggest that demographic variables may be useful in identifying patients with cancer who are more likely to report higher levels of distress or greater psychosocial needs; these patients should be offered interventions and support services earlier in the treatment process, which may improve outcomes.

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