Psychosocial distress in oncology: using the distress thermometer for assessing risk classes

Claudia Cormio, Francesca Caporale, Roberta Spatuzzi, Fulvia Lagattolla, Andrea Lisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Cancer patients often suffer for psychological distress, which can compromise their quality of life. Our study aimed to recognize risk classes for the development of psychosocial distress. Methods: Three hundred seventy-two adult cancer patients were assessed by the Distress Thermometer (DT) and Problem List at the National Cancer Research Centre “Giovanni Paolo II” of Bari. We also compiled a socio-medical and clinical-medical record survey ad hoc for collecting socio-demographic information and clinical variables. To examine the interplay among the different variables and distinguish internally homogeneous subgroups of patients with diverse risks of distress, the RECursive Partitioning and Amalgamation (RECPAM) technique was used. Results: Most of patients were female and the most frequent diagnosis was breast cancer, followed by gastro-intestinal cancer and hematological cancer. Distress was present in 43% of the sample, with a total of 156 patients with a DT > 5. The RECPAM analysis identified three distinct and homogeneous patient subgroups (RECPAM classes) with different risks of distress: diagnosis, marital status, and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Performance Status. Conclusion: The use of the distress thermometer allows clinicians to identify patients with certain characteristics that may increase the risk of developing psychosocial distress. This evaluation can allow timely psychological intervention and improve the patient’s therapeutic program.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4115-4121
Number of pages7
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Cancer
  • Distress
  • Distress thermometer
  • Risk class

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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