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What to do with screening for distress scores? Integrating descriptive data into clinical practice

  • Marie-Claude Blais (a1), Alexandre St-Hilaire (a2), Lise Fillion (a3), Marie De Serres (a4) and Annie Tremblay (a4)...



Implementation of routine Screening for Distress constitutes a major change in cancer care, with the aim of achieving person-centered care.


Using a cross-sectional descriptive design within a University Tertiary Care Hospital setting, 911 patients from all cancer sites were screened at the time of their first meeting with a nurse navigator who administered a paper questionnaire that included: the Distress Thermometer (DT), the Canadian Problem Checklist (CPC), and the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS).


Results showed a mean score of 3.9 on the DT. Fears/worries, coping with the disease, and sleep were the most common problems reported on the CPC. Tiredness was the most prevalent symptom on the ESAS. A final regression model that included anxiety, the total number of problems on the CPC, well-being, and tiredness accounted for almost 50% of the variance of distress. A cutoff score of 5 on the DT together with a cutoff of 5 on the ESAS items represents the best combination of specificity and sensitivity to orient patients on the basis of their reported distress.

Significance of results:

These descriptive data will provide valuable feedback to answer practical questions for the purpose of effectively implementing and managing routine screening in cancer care.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Marie-Claude Blais, Pavillon Michel Sarrazin, Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières, Québec, G9A 5H7, Canada. E-mail:


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