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Prevalence, risk factors, and the desire for help of distressed newly diagnosed cancer patients: A large-sample study*

  • Ging-Long Wang (a1) (a2), Chih-Tao Cheng (a1) (a3), An-Chen Feng (a4), Sheng-Hui Hsu (a1), Yi-Chen Hou (a1) and Chiu-Yuan Chiu (a5)...



Beginning in 2007, all newly diagnosed cancer patients at the Koo Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center (KF–SYSCC) were screened for psychosocial distress. Our social workers, as part of the psychosocial care team (PCT), have engaged in proactive outreach with patients identified as distressed. The goal of the present study was to assess the prevalence of psychosocial distress and the extent of contact between the PCT and distressed patients.


Newly diagnosed patients who were treated at KF–SYSCC between 2007 and 2010 for cancer were eligible if there were at least 100 patients with the same type of cancer. Before treatment began, they were screened with the Pain Scale and the Distress Thermometer (DT) and had the option to specify a desire for help. The rates of distress were analyzed by cancer type and by probable related factors. Information regarding contact with the PCT was retrieved from computerized databases.


Overall, some 5,335 cancer patients representing 12 major cancer types were included in our study. Of these, 1,771 (33.20%) were significantly distressed. By multivariate logistic regression, younger age, female gender, higher pain score, and disease stage, but not cancer type, were found to be associated with higher rates of distress. Among these distressed patients, 628 (36%) had some contact with the PCT.

Significance of results:

This Taiwanese study with a large sample size revealed a prevalence rate of psychosocial distress similar to rates found in Western countries. Contact with the PCT was established in only 36% of significantly distressed patients, despite a proactive outreach program. It is very important to have screening results made available in a timely fashion to the psycho-oncology team so that appropriate care can be offered promptly.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Ging-Long Wang, Department of Psychiatry, Koo Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center, 125 Lih-Der Road, Bei-Tou District, Taipei, Taiwan 11259. E-mail:


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Parts of this paper were presented as posters at the 2012 IPOS Meeting in Brisbane, Australia.



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