Optimal Frequency of Psychosocial Distress Screening in Radiation Oncology

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Radiation Oncology

Publication Date


Document Type



Neoplasms | Oncology | Radiology


PURPOSE: To accurately hypothesize the optimal frequency of psychosocial distress screening in patients undergoing radiation therapy using exploratory modeling of prospective data.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Between October 2010 and May 2011, 71 RT patients underwent daily screening with the Distress Thermometer. Prevalences of Distress Thermometer scores > /= 4 were recorded. Optimal screening frequency was evaluated by planned post hoc comparison of prevalence rates and required screening events estimated by numerical modeling, consisting of data point omission to mimic weekly, every-other-week, monthly, and one-time screening intervals. Dependence on clinical variables and chronologic trends were assessed as secondary end points.

RESULTS: A total of 2,028 daily screening events identified that 37% of patients reported distress at least once during the course of treatment. Weekly, every-other-week, monthly, and one-time screening models estimated distress prevalences of 32%, 31%, 23%, and 17%, respectively, but required only 21%, 12%, 7%, and 4% of the assessments required for daily screening. No clinical parameter significantly predicted distress in univariable analysis, but "alone" living situation trended toward significance (P = .06). Physician-reported grade 3 toxicity predicted distress with 98% specificity, but only 19% sensitivity.

CONCLUSION: Thirty-seven percent of radiation oncology patients reported distress at least once during treatment. Screening at every-other-week intervals optimized efficiency and frequency, identifying nearly 90% of distressed patients with 12% of the screening events compared with daily screening.

DOI of Published Version



J Oncol Pract. 2015 Jul;11(4):298-302. doi: 10.1200/JOP.2014.003392. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of oncology practice / American Society of Clinical Oncology

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID