Psychological distress and needs of cancer patients: A prospective comparison between the diagnostic and the therapeutic phase

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Background and purpose: The diagnosis of cancer marks an immediate passage from a condition of health to one characterized by uncertainty, threat of death, and changes. The psychological distress is recognized as a peculiar component in the process of disease adjustment and it seems to change over time together with needs. In the present study, both psychological distress and needs were assessed twice (i.e., after the diagnosis and later during treatments) in a sample of hospitalized cancer patients. Method: Eighty-five consecutive adult patients from the same Cancer Institute in North-east Italy were involved in the research. Participants were requested to fill out both a distress (i.e., the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and needs (i.e., Needs Evaluation Questionnaire) self-reported measure within a month of diagnosis (diagnostic phase) and 3-6 months from diagnosis (therapeutic phase). Results: In the diagnostic phase, the prevalence of probable psychological morbidity due to anxiety was 23.5% and 14.1% due to depression. When the inpatients identified as possible cases were included, the respective proportions were 56.5% and 36.5%. Progressing from diagnostic to therapeutic phase, anxiety seems to decrease, while no statistically significant difference has been found in depression levels. In both phases, the most frequently mentioned needs were the informative ones; although the decrement in time is significant only for this type of needs. Conclusion: The implications both for the quality of care and the disease adjustment by cancer patients are discussed together with study limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-295
Number of pages5
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


  • Cancer
  • Diagnostic phase
  • Needs
  • Psychological distress
  • Therapeutic phase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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