Karen L. Clark, MS | Authors

Problem-Related Distress in Cancer Patients Drives Requests for Help: A Prospective Study

August 01, 2007

The Moores UCSD Cancer Center has implemented the use of an innovative instrument for screening cancer patients at first visit to assist them with distress due to cancer-related problems. This 36-question screening instrument addresses physical, practical, social, psychological and spiritual problems. Patients are asked to rate the severity of each problem on a scale of 1 to 5, and to circle "Yes" if they would like staff assistance. Data from a prospective study of the first 2,071 patients to complete this questionnaire has been entered into a database and analyzed to identify common patient problems, demographics, and trends. The five most common causes of problem-related distress were fatigue, sleeping, finances, pain, and controlling my fear and worry about the future. The five most common problems for which patients circled "Yes" to ask for assistance were understanding my treatment options, fatigue, sleeping, pain, and finances. Compared to the entire population, patients who circled "Yes" on a particular problem, demonstrated a robust increase in problem-related distress.