Characterizing distress, the 6th vital sign, in an oncology pain clinic
The delineation of populations of cancer patients with complex symptoms can inform the planning and delivery of supportive care services.
We explored the physical, psychosocial, and practical concerns experienced by patients attending an ambulatory oncology symptom control clinic.
Patients attending a Pain Clinic at a large tertiary cancer centre were invited to complete screening measures assessing distress, pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and practical and psychosocial problems. A matched sample of patients who did not attend the Pain Clinic were selected as a comparison group.
Of all eligible Pain Clinic patients, 46 (77%) completed the measures; so did 46 comparison group patients. The percentages of patients reporting distress (78.3%), pain (93.5%), and fatigue (93.5%) were higher among Pain Clinic patients than among the comparison patients. A higher percentage of Pain Clinic patients also reported multiple, severe, concurrent symptoms: 87% scored 7 or higher in at least one of the pain, fatigue, or distress scales, and 30.4% of the patients scored 7 or higher on all three. The most common problem areas were feeling a burden to others, trouble talking with friends and family, spirituality, and sleep difficulties.
Higher levels of multiple, concurrent symptoms and psychosocial problems were found in Pain Clinic patients than in a group of patients who did not attend the Pain Clinic. Routine screening and triaging of cancer patients using a comprehensive and standardized panel of questions can facilitate symptom assessment and management, and can inform program planning.
Copyright © 2013 Multimed Inc.
ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)