Distress

A cancer diagnosis provokes considerable psychological, social, and sexual difficulties for most people. Estimations vary, depending on the measurement used, but 20-35% of patients, irrespective of disease site or stage, experience psychological problems which merit intervention with anxiolytics and antidepressants or referral to a liaison psychiatrist or oncology counsellor.

There are several studies showing that oncologists are not very good at detecting psychiatric morbidity among their patients. In a study examining the ability of doctors to identify distress when patients were being given confirmation of a cancer diagnosis or recurrence, only one out of six senior oncologists behaved above chance level. Recent meta-analysis of 62 randomized trials of psycho-educational interventions with adult cancer patients demonstrated positive effect, suggesting that such interventions should be an integral part of cancer services, not just an optional extra.

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