Prevalence of emotional distress in newly diagnosed lung cancer patients
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GOALS OF WORK: Distress is defined by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network as a multifactorial unpleasant emotional experience of a psychological, social, and/or spiritual nature that may interfere with the ability to cope effectively with cancer. We investigated the prevalence and associated symptoms of distress in newly diagnosed lung cancer patients. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Between November 2005 and July 2007, 98 newly diagnosed lung cancer patients completed an assessment. The Distress Thermometer (DT) and Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) were used as screening tools. MAIN RESULTS: Fifty (51%) patients reported clinically significant distress (>or=4) on the DT. Of those, 26 (52%) patients reported high levels of depression, nervousness, or both on ESAS. The remaining 24 (48%) patients had elevated levels of distress but no significant depression or nervousness. A correlation between the DT and the total ESAS score was observed (Pearson correlation = 0.46). The ten items of the ESAS together explained 46% of the variability in DT scores. The depression and nervousness ESAS items were significant predictors of DT score (p < 0.01 for both items). However, once the two psychosocial items, depression and nervousness, were removed from the total ESAS score, leaving only physical symptoms and the sleeplessness item, the predictive power of the model decreased to R(2) = 0.12. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of distress in lung cancer patients is high. The DT appears to discriminate between physical and emotional distress. This easily measured score may determine which patients require further intervention for emotional distress.
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