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Screening cancer patients' families with the distress thermometer (DT): a validation study


Zwahlen, D; Hagenbuch, N; Carley, M I; Recklitis, C J; Buchi, S (2008). Screening cancer patients' families with the distress thermometer (DT): a validation study. Psycho-Oncology, 17(10):959-966.

Abstract

Although family members of cancer patients are at great risk of experiencing psychological distress, clinical tools to assist with recognizing and intervening with appropriate psychosocial care are sparse. This study reports on the first validation of the distress thermometer (DT) as a screening instrument for symptoms of depression and anxiety in family members of cancer patients. The DT was administered with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) in a sample of 321 family members. Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) demonstrated that the DT has good diagnostic utility relative to the HADS (area under the curve= 0.88 relative to the HADS anxiety scale; 0.84 relative to the HADS depression scale, respectively). The ROC curves indicate that using a cut-off of 4/5 maximizes sensitivity (86.2% HADS anxiety scale; 88.2% HADS depression scale) and specificity (71.2% HADS anxiety scale; 67.6% HADS depression scale); however, the alternative lower cut-off of 3/4 increases sensitivity (94.1% for both scales) and hence reduces the risk of missing distressed family members (specificity is 62.9% for HADS anxiety scale; 59.1% for HADS depression scale). The results offer validation of the DT for screening family members of cancer patients and support its use for clinical assessment. Distress screening with DT for family members of cancer patients is a promising and efficient approach to integrating family members in the program of care and provides the first step toward meeting their unmet needs with referral for supportive services.

Although family members of cancer patients are at great risk of experiencing psychological distress, clinical tools to assist with recognizing and intervening with appropriate psychosocial care are sparse. This study reports on the first validation of the distress thermometer (DT) as a screening instrument for symptoms of depression and anxiety in family members of cancer patients. The DT was administered with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) in a sample of 321 family members. Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) demonstrated that the DT has good diagnostic utility relative to the HADS (area under the curve= 0.88 relative to the HADS anxiety scale; 0.84 relative to the HADS depression scale, respectively). The ROC curves indicate that using a cut-off of 4/5 maximizes sensitivity (86.2% HADS anxiety scale; 88.2% HADS depression scale) and specificity (71.2% HADS anxiety scale; 67.6% HADS depression scale); however, the alternative lower cut-off of 3/4 increases sensitivity (94.1% for both scales) and hence reduces the risk of missing distressed family members (specificity is 62.9% for HADS anxiety scale; 59.1% for HADS depression scale). The results offer validation of the DT for screening family members of cancer patients and support its use for clinical assessment. Distress screening with DT for family members of cancer patients is a promising and efficient approach to integrating family members in the program of care and provides the first step toward meeting their unmet needs with referral for supportive services.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:09 Jan 2009 15:13
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:48
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1057-9249
Additional Information:The attached file is a preprint (accepted version) of an article published in Psycho-Oncology 2008; 17:959-966.
Publisher DOI:10.1002/pon.1320
PubMed ID:18203146
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-9762

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