Measuring distress in cancer patients: the distress thermometer in an Australian sample

Campbell, Alistair, Steginga, Suzanne K., Ferguson, Megan, Beeden, Alison, Walls, Melissa, Cairns, Will, and Dunn, Jeff (2009) Measuring distress in cancer patients: the distress thermometer in an Australian sample. Progress in Palliative Care, 17 (2). pp. 61-68.

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Purpose: To evaluate the use of the Distress Thermometer (DT) in an Australian population population using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) as a ‘gold standard’ for case detection. Methods: A cross sectional survey of 439 cancer patients (61.2% response) under current medical care at a regional tertiary cancer centre was undertaken. Assessments included general distress, anxiety and depression, general health and wellbeing, cancer specific distress, social support, and social constraints. The screening properties of the DT were evaluated against cases identified using the Full Scale scores of the HADS as has been done previously. In addition, we used the separate scores on the Depression and Anxiety scales to evaluate the utility of the DT in detecting cases of Anxiety only, Depression only, and Depression and Anxiety together. Results: The sensitivity and specificity of the DT with the HADS – Full Scale were found to be similar to that of previous research. Use of the sub-scale scores of the HADS to detect cases led to some differences in the DT performance. In particular, detection of cases of Depression only was quite poor. The Positive Predictive Value (PPV) of the HADS generally and specifically was noted to be problematic. Conclusion: Although we obtained similar results to previous research our results suggest that caution may need to be exercised when using the DT as a screening instrument. It may not be as effective a screen for depression symptoms and has a high rate of false positives.

Item ID: 5586
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1743-291X
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2010 01:48
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1112 Oncology and Carcinogenesis > 111299 Oncology and Carcinogenesis not elsewhere classified @ 40%
17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology @ 60%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9201 Clinical Health (Organs, Diseases and Abnormal Conditions) > 920102 Cancer and Related Disorders @ 30%
92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920204 Evaluation of Health Outcomes @ 70%
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