Psychosocial Distress Screening in a Community Cancer Center: An Exploratory Study of Distress Screening Across the Cancer Treatment Continuum

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Capstone Project

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Mark Aoyagi

Second Advisor

Neil Gowensmith

Third Advisor

Jana Bolduan Lomax


Cancer, Quantitative research, Assessment, Psychosocial oncology, Distress screening, Distress, Oncology


Purpose: The primary goal of this exploratory study is to demonstrate that distress screening across the course of cancer treatment is possible and provides valuable information about patient needs over time. Distress screening is aligned with guidelines from national accrediting organizations and may lead to improved health-related quality of life, satisfaction with medical care, and possibly survival.Methods: Medical, surgical, and radiation oncology patients completed a screening instrument before their appointments during a six-month period. Patients indicated their level of distress on four domains (practical, emotional, health and social concerns). De-identified data was collected, aggregated and descriptive statistics were analyzed.Results: Approximately 3000 screens were collected and 1500 cancer patients were screened. Of patients who indicated distress, 54% demonstrated a distress level of five or greater. Distress level eight was the most frequent level of distress indicated. The Cancer Dietitian was the most commonly requested healthcare team provider. The Health Concern domain was most frequently endorsed.Conclusion: NCCN, IOM and COC guidelines recommend distress screening in all cancer treatment centers, however implementation has proven difficult. This study adds to the literature about distress in cancer patients, demonstrates the feasibility of repeated distress screening and provides a model program demonstrating the implementation of repeated distress screening at a community cancer center. Findings highlight the importance of supportive oncology services due to the prevalence of high levels of distress. Findings demonstrate the importance of the Cancer Dietitian in supportive cancer care. Additionally, the research reveals a potential perceived stigma in seeking psychosocial oncology services.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


23 pages

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