Distress Screening and Intervention Appears to Help Cancer Patients Cope
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A simple one-hour psycho-oncologic intervention appears to reduce psychological distress in cancer patients, with the benefit persisting well beyond the initial intervention, a new study suggests.
A diagnosis of cancer can lead to high levels of psychological distress and impaired quality of life. "Everyone who comes to our cancer clinic gets a distress screening, which is recommended but most hospitals don't do it," Dr. Stanley Lyndon from the department of psychiatry at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, noted in an interview with Reuters Health. "But screening is not enough."
Dr. Lyndon and colleagues tested the effect of one or two sessions of a psycho-oncology intervention on distress scores in 146 cancer patients (mean age, 47; 110 women). The intervention involved social workers and psychologists talking to the patients about their stress. A psychiatrist overseeing them prescribed drug therapy as needed.
Patients completed the Distress Thermometer (DT) at the beginning and end of their first session; 38 of the patients returned for a second session about 17 days after the first session and also completed the DT before and after the session.
Dr. Lyndon presented the findings May 5 at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual meeting in New York City.
The average distress score at the beginning of the first visit (PRE1) was 5.71 (out of 10) and dropped to 3.86 at the end of the first visit (POST1), "which is highly statistically significant," Dr. Lyndon told Reuters Health.
The average distress score at the beginning of the second visit (PRE2) was 4.71 and dropped to 2.82 at the end of the second visit (POST2).
The drop in distress levels after the first visit suggests “benefit from a single hour-long intervention," the researchers report in their APA poster, and the second visit seems beneficial as well.
"We don't know what the key ingredient of the intervention is, but certainly we've shown that something about the intervention was helpful in easing stress levels," Dr. Jennifer Knight, medical director of the psycho-oncology program at Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, who worked on the study, told Reuters Health.
The study had no commercial funding, and the authors have no relevant disclosures.
American Psychiatric Association 2018 Annual Meeting.